‘Early EV adopters loved the savagery and the screams they’d get from their passengers’

Published: 28 March 2024 Updated: 28 March 2024

► Mark thinks EVs with savage acceleration need a nickname
► Similar to the Vomit Comet, but more… mocking
► Got any ideas? Answers on a postcard…

Back in 1950 two German scientists, Fritz and Heinz Haber – brothers, in fact, who’d been brought to the US after the war – proposed a way of simulating weightlessness for astronaut training. The first ‘parabolic flight’ took place in 1951, flown by the legendary test pilot, Chuck Yeager. He put his aircraft into a steep climb and then, six miles high, arched over into a dive, creating the effect of weightlessness as the plane and its occupants fell out of the sky together. By the end of the decade these flights were being used to train the Mercury astronauts, who nicknamed the aircraft the Vomit Comet. The up-and-down flight path, subjecting its occupants to a sequence of 50 or 60 climbs and dives per day, caused even the most heroic of passengers to puke.

Today, I’d like to create a new Vomit Comet-style nickname, one that we can apply to electric cars. Like Green Machine. Or Bile Mobile. Okay, I may need some help…

I want this nickname because electric cars make me want to blow chunks. Yes, it’s easy to blame the driver, and in the case of the Porsche Taycan Turbo I hold my hand up. When you find yourself on a quiet back road in a high-performance EV fitted with launch control and you know you can catapult from zero to 62mph in under three seconds… well, it’s very hard to resist. Let’s just say, after 10 minutes of putting those performance figures to the test, my feelings of regret were located high in the throat and they tasted like breakfast.

But the problem with electric cars goes beyond the Porsche Taycan and launch control – every electric car seems to have an accelerator like an on-off switch, and just like those Vomit Comet flights, subjecting a human body to that kind of instant torque makes pretty much everyone feel like they want to hurl.

Thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Accelerator pedals in EVs are, of course, fly-by-wire, controlled by millions of lines of software code. The manufacturers could easily program their cars to have a more linear pedal – by which I mean, they could operate more like a fast petrol car than a fridge light. But then, the instant torque effect is something EV advocates love to boast about, and that’s been part of the problem. In this first phase of EV adoption, owners have wanted to show off in their Teslas or their Kias and I think the manufacturers have pandered to that showboating by making their accelerators particularly abrupt. In most EVs, just nudging the pedal will have the dog tumbling backwards and the kids accidentally sticking lollipops in their eyes. Early EV adopters loved this cruel savagery and the screams they’d get from their passengers, because they’re all inhuman sadists. But maybe now we’re in the second phase of adoption, it’s time to tone down this clowning around.

It’s something I thought about recently when I drove the Lotus Eletre, because when I say ‘all electric cars make me want to puke’, I actually mean ‘all of them except the new Lotus SUV’.

One of the things that makes the Eletre so good is the way the main controls are calibrated: the steering is direct and tactile in your hands; the brake feel is amazing; and the accelerator is much more like a petrol car’s than your average EV. Lotus says this was a deliberate decision, taken for the right reason – to make the car nicer to drive. Simple.

It’s not that the Eletre isn’t fast – I drove the so-called base model, which has 603bhp and accelerates to 62mph in 4.5 seconds, so it’s hardly a slouch. But the way the Eletre takes off is much closer to a supercar than a super-EV – that crucial, first tip-in of the pedal sees the car roll away from the start, and then the acceleration builds, hard and fast and relentless like a fighter jet down a runway. But that small prologue, that little delay over the first few metres – let’s call it the ‘gag lag’ – makes a huge difference, especially if you’re braced for another puke-nuke explosion.

So I say we make the car manufacturers sit up and listen – let’s call them out and create a new Vomit Comet nickname for EVs that’ll embarrass them into change.

‘Chunder Dumper.’ Sorry, that’s the best I can do.

By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast