At the recent Frankfurt Motor Show you could catch a glimpse of what the future holds for the sports car that will pass you on the motorway with a silent swoosh of electric-driven power rather than with the throaty roar we know from a Lamborghini or a Ferrari.
Several car makers are showing the world that it is possible to produce high-powered sports cars with clean-drive alternative power concepts and that motorists can combine an eco-conscience with all the fun that comes with a sports car.
Arguably the centre of attraction at the Frankfurt Show was the all-red Audi E-Tron concept based on the R8 sports car. The design and performance figures leave no doubt that it belongs to the top sports car league.
The lithium-ion battery unit, that provides a range of 248 kilometres, is positioned directly behind the passenger cabin for an optimal centre of gravity and axle load distribution. Four motors — two each at the front and rear axles — drive the wheels, producing a total of 230 kW/313 hp. The two-seater accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, and from 60 to 120 km/h in 4.1 seconds.
A lot of work still needs to be done before the car is ready for volume production. Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen said a production-ready model won’t be ready until at least 2012.
Not to be outdone, Mercedes Benz spread the word that its new gullwing SLS super car would probably be available in an electric version by the year 2014. The head of Mercedes sports car division AMG, Volker Mornhinweg, said the EV version would be no compromise regarding performance and super sports car qualities.
The EV SLS is planned with four hub motors producing a combined output of 392 kW/532 hp fed by a lithium-ion battery pack running down the centre of the underbody. Mercedes claims that it would accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in four seconds.
BMW’s Vision Efficient Dynamics looked something like the KITT talking car from the 1980s television series Knight Rider including the flashing strip of light coming from the aggressive narrow snout. The combination of electric motor and diesel engine has an output of 356 hp with a carbon dioxide emission figure of 99 grammes per kilometre.
Many of the lightweight materials and the technology could well be found in production vehicles in the coming years but the concept shown in Frankfurt, based very much on the M1, could still be years away from volume production.
Niche manufacturers are paving the way for the silent super sports car. US manufacturer Tesla began small scale production of the Tesla Roadster last year with an electric motor in the rear producing 185 KW. It has just announced a model update for 2010 with greater range and speed, cutting acceleration from zero to 100 km/h from 3.9 to 3.7 seconds. The manufacturer lists a range of almost 400 kilometres but much of course would depend on the way the car is driven.
All the power of the electric car is at hand simply by pressing the accelerator. Gliding along the motorway without the roar of the sports car however takes some getting used to for the sports car enthusiast. But help is at hand. German tuner Brabus is offering a Tesla version with a “space sound generator” giving the motorist a choice of four different engine sounds ranging from the V8 of the race car to the beam and warp sounds from the “Starship Enterprise”.