As automotive enthusiasts, we are adventurers and collectors of speed. We know what it sounds like and we know what it looks like, but it’s the chance to experience speed that keeps us dreaming: How do we make speed speedier? Can we experience the thrill of speed and also feel safe? And in many cases, can we make speed cheaper, and more accessible?
Those are the traditional limitations to speed and how we, as enthusiasts and consumers, can experience it. Racing–the art of speed–has provided answers to these questions for much of the previous century. Today, there exists a set of new questions that speed must answer: Can speed be efficient? Or clean? Can we maintain speed, or achieve greater speed, using new methods? What are those methods?
The backstory to these questions relate to many current environmental and political phenomena: Dwindling resources (oil), greater consumption (in the US, and in China), the increased price for gasoline, and certain federal mandates the automakers must achieve (CAFE). All of these points point to a (begging the) question on every speed-loving fanatic’s mind: What is the future of the supercar?
The gas crisis of the 1970s killed the supercar. Economic factors stifled the accessibility of the supercars from the late 1990s. But today, speed is perhaps more prevalent than its ever been. It’s safer, cheaper, and cleaner. Cleaner than it was, but not yet clean enough.
From Ted Klaus, Chief Engineer for the upcoming Acura NSX: “I think carmakers who want to deliver what we call timeless sportscar values–at a high level–they’re seeking a new way to deliver those values, a new driving experience…”
From Dr. Frank Walliser, Project Leader of the 918 Spyder: “Porsche decided to build a car to give a clear answer to the CO2 discussion that we see, by technology, it’s possible to optimize and reduce fuel consumption, and on the other hand, show that high performance will still survive.”
From Dan Parry-Williams, Chief Design Engineer for the McLaren P1: “It’s important for companies like McLaren to make sure we are at the cutting edge of technology, to make sure the technology we employ in our vehicles is relevant to the modern era and ensure that we can move forward with that technology as fast as anybody else. I think that our competitors felt the same way.”
At Automotive.com, we’re not consumed with speed. But the idea of a super car, and clearing certain hurdles for the advancement of future speed, are important to the overarching automotive landscape. The mantra, “Race on Sunday, sell on Monday,” still applies, just at a much slower pace. The upshot is that the technology and features that are developed from racing really do trickle down into consumer cars. How soon, and in what manner?
Look to the supercars for the answer.