Close your eyes and imagine a car rocketing from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.1 seconds. You might picture a dashing racer-red Ferrari 488 in your mind’s eye, with the banshee scream of a highly-tuned V8.
Now replace that image with a seven-seat SUV, charging to 100km/h in the time it takes to check your watch. The soundtrack accompanying it is no more than a faint whirring noise, like a distant Dyson vacuum cleaner.
One of these represents the past; the other is the future.
To give the Prancing Horse its dues, it will knock down the ton in a spritely 2.8 seconds; but few people would be able to pick the 0.3-second acceleration difference between the hard-charging Ferrari and the relentless pull of the fully electric, family-friendly Tesla Model X.
The Italian stallion screams and wails, and anyone with eyes can see it is fast. The Tesla looks like almost any other SUV (until you open its gull-wing rear doors), and sounds like the electric vehicle it is.
It’s the sound of the future as more and electric cars bring 21st century efficiency and excitement to Australian roads.
The belt in the back that traditionally only came from V8 petrol power can now be delivered with the instant-on thrust of an electric motor.
Apart from Tesla, which already offers three startlingly quick all-electric models, Jaguar is also doing the job with its electrified I-Pace, which is briskly quick and can run for more than 300 kilometres between visits to a charger.
It’s so good that it outscored a field of top-drawer internal-combustion cars to become the 2019 World Car of the Year.
Things will really shift up a gear next year when Porsche lands its Taycan in showrooms, a Panamera-sized battery sports car with the promise of supercar performance in every way.
Also at the top end of motoring, both Jaguar and Aston Martin are well into development of electric flagships, and all sorts of start-up brands from Europe to the US and China are talking about some form of electric supercar.
Part of this push is down to tightening controls on combustion cars in many of the world’s major cities, led by London and Paris. Meanwhile, the giant Volkswagen Group – which includes Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley – is working to wash away the stain of the Dieselgate scandal with a quick conversion to green electric power.
Electric cars will drive the greening of motoring and Norway is already there, setting the standard thanks to 100 per cent renewable energy and big incentives for battery cars.
In Australia, there are a growing number of electric cars to choose from, and the roll-out of fast-charge stations is starting to get into gear. There will be plug-in hybrids at first, which can roll for around 50 kilometres on battery charge before shifting to combustion power, as major makers build the cars and capacity for large-scale electrification after 2025.
But it’s a chicken-and-egg conversion, and it’s the cars that will drive the change.
The best of the breed, right now, is the Tesla Model 3. It’s a stylish good looker, has enough gadgets to lure the early adopters, and is surprisingly affordable.
Time in the 3 can be relaxing with one of the quietest cars on the road, or you can also tap some surprising excitement. It’s wickedly quick in a straight line and surprisingly enjoyable through twists and turns. A similar combination will inject genuine excitement into all sorts of future cars, and especially the sporties.
Instead of having an internal-combustion lump positioned at one end of the car, onboard battery packs will concentrate the weight low-down in the centre of the car, and small electric motors can be positioned wherever they are needed. All-wheel-drive grip will be cheap, easy and well balanced.
The final hurdle for rusted-on fans of old-school muscle is the sound. They argue that nothing beats the thump of a V8 soundtrack or the wail of a Ferrari V12.
But engineers have thought of everything and promise artificial noise generators, partly to warn pedestrians and partly to appease the old-timers. So an electric car may whisper through traffic in one moment, or mimic a V8 for old-school smiles the next.