McLaren CEO Michael Leiter says bulky electric car batteries would make the supercar ‘boring to drive’ – Carlos Jasso/Bloomberg Finance LP
McLaren’s chief executive has said bulky electric car batteries are killing the excitement of driving British sports cars.
Michael Leiter said the Woking-based supercar maker was not yet ready to convert its cars to electric, claiming drivers “cannot enjoy [themselves] over the weekend” when the massive lithium battery is under the hood.
Mr Leiter said current technology was not yet advanced enough to replicate the “emotional” experience of driving a petrol or diesel-powered high-performance sports car.
He said: “Today, battery technology hasn’t matured yet. If you go sporty, if you want to enjoy yourself on the weekend, if you go to the racetrack, it’s not the right technology yet.”
Mr. Leiter suggested that putting battery packs in today’s supercars would weigh them down too much and make them boring to drive.
The McLaren supercar, even with a four-liter engine, weighs about 1.4 tons. Meanwhile, comparable electric cars would weigh 2.2 tonnes.
Mr Leiter told the FT Future of the Car summit: “It’s not the DNA of the product, at least our product.”
The McLaren 720S, which starts at £222,000, can go from 0mph to 60mph in 2.6 seconds.
McLaren 720S Spyder can go from 0mph to 60mph in 2.6 seconds – Beadyeye
Few high-performance electric cars can match or even better that performance: the £125,000 Tesla Model S Plaid can reach 60pmh in less than two seconds.
However, Mr Leiter said the experience of driving a supercar was about much more than just speed.
“Buying a supercar is not rational. It is purely emotional. And we have to deliver that emotional experience.
Mr Leiter, who was appointed to head McLaren last year, is the latest executive to complain that current electric vehicle technology cannot replicate the control, feel, noise and handling of a combustion engine-powered sports car.
Ferrari chief Benedetto Vigna said last year that sound is one of the “essential” features of his vehicles and that every engine should have a signature sound, including electric ones.
The Italian marque has patented technology to amplify the small amount of noise an electric engine produces to replicate the roar of a petrol engine. Ferrari plans to launch its first all-electric sports car in 2025.
US carmaker, Dodge has developed its own device for its Charger EV to recreate the noise of its gas-guzzling muscle cars, with volumes up to 126 decibels.
Meanwhile, BMW has hired Oscar-winning Hollywood soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer to create an “emotionally rich listening experience” for its electric cars.
McLaren is working on a fully electric car but Mr Leiter said it could be ten years away, when battery technology has developed and more power can be packed into a smaller and lighter package.
“Make sure that when we do bring a supercar, it will be a real EV supercar,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s a bad technology. I think it’s a great technology, but we have to develop it for all purposes.”
McLaren is focusing on so-called e-fuels right now. These synthetic fuels mimic petrol, diesel and other fossil fuels because they are made of the same combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms.
However, instead of being dug out of the ground, refined and burned, they are made from water and air using electricity, which means they have less of an impact on the planet.
The use of e-fuels could allow classic cars and other older models to remain on the road long after new combustion engines have rolled off the manufacturing lines.
Ferrari and Porsche are supporters of the technology and UK brands including Aston Martin are said to be interested.
The EU has agreed to allow e-fuelled cars to continue driving on its roads after a ban on petrol and diesel cars comes into force in 2035.
Mr Leiter said: “I am very happy and positive about the new trend or new element in the discussion about e-fuels in the EU.”