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Will supercars survive, asks Gavin Green

Published: 06 August 2008

With oil at $130 a barrel, petrol at £1.20 a litre, our roads traffic clogged, our police force ever more vigilant against ‘speeding’ and eco green taking over from Italian racing red as motoring’s colour of choice, whither the supercar?

Well fear not, anxious reader. The supercar will be just fine. We’ve been here before. The ‘oil’ crisis of the ‘70s – after which supercars got faster and better. The ‘threat’ to performance cars by ‘speed sapping’ catalytic converters and lead-free petrol – after which supercars got faster and better. Various economic shocks, the most recent in the early ‘90s – after which supercars got faster and better. Despite these ‘setbacks’, there have never been so many great fast cars, entertaining so many drivers, in so many countries, from so many fast-car makers.

Supercars: the ultimate plaything

Supercars, let us not forget, are not mere transport. They are playthings, like speedboats, fancy yachts and private planes. Ferrari will no more disappear than Riva or Learjet. The wealthy will keep buying and enjoying them, even if the cost of entry (and of use) escalates. They make an infinitesimal contribution to global CO2, so there is no rational reason to ban or restrict them.

But the supercar will change. And the pressures of eco-sensitive legislation and taxation will improve the supercar, not strangle it.

An era of change is ahead

Supercars will get lighter, to save petrol and reduce carbon. Their engines will become smaller. They will be lighter. The corollary may be lower top speeds – but so what? When did you last see a Ferrari at Vmax? More important, they will be even more accelerative and more nimble, both boosting driving pleasure. For too long the thoroughbreds of the road have been more like chunky draughthorses than fine-limbed Arab stallions in girth and weight: bloated top-end supercars weigh as much as luxury saloons. A new generation of more lissom machines beckon.

We’ll see hybrid and electric power, as well as increasingly sophisticated petrol engines. And why not? Electric engines can be marvellous devices, smoother and simpler than Heath Robinson-like internal combustion engines. No hoses or mufflers or anti-pollution plumbing or lubricating oil or noise or smell. We have always known this; the weak link has been the energy storage – the batteries. But there seems to be genuine progress now, as flagged by the Lotus-developed Tesla. I haven’t driven one but I hear good things.

So we will not only see evolutions of the current mighty meaty motors; we’ll see a genuine revolution too. We are entering a golden age in motoring and in supercars. Change will take place faster and more fundamentally than ever. Hold on: it will be an exciting and rewarding ride.

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By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience