The Peugeot EX1 is a car that you need to see if you’re still harbouring any prejudice towards electric vehicles.
It’s a machine with a quite incredible lack of compromise, built to go fast. Only a one-off prototype could be so devoted to that mission: if Peugeot had been building this thing to a price, even with one eye on meeting crash and safety regulations for production cars, they simply wouldn’t have had the freedom to make this car the way they have.
The EX1’s got some incredible design flourishes that you’d only ever find on a ‘blue sky’ car. That swing arm rear axle saves weight and improves aerodynamics. The car’s carbonfibre monocoque is something to behold too; it’s a shame Peugeot covered so much of it up with that boring, branded front end.
My favourite features on the car are its doors. Made entirely of carbonfibre, they incorporate the car’s bucket seats. When you get into the EX1, you actually sit down into the door assembly and then swing your whole body inwards with the door as it closes. That’d never work on a road car, or in any other material than carbon; it would simply be too heavy, too problematic.
Watching the EX1 run for the photographers’ cameras, it certainly looked fast – but more impressive to me was its range. A petrol-engined car of this size and performance – a Caterham R500 or an Ariel Atom 300 - probably couldn’t go further than 150- to 200 miles on a tank. But the EX1’s capable of close to 300 miles cruising – as well as 0-62mph in less than 3.0sec.
That finally made the penny drop for me about one of the ways electric propulsion will change the nature of the cars we drive. Because if and when pure EVs really do arrive in showrooms in number and variety, the fastest ones will also have the longest range. The potential to travel long distances in an EV will simply be a by-product of also being able to go fast.
That’s because, although an internal combustion V8 will always use more fuel than a smaller four-pot, a big, powerful electric motor is almost as efficient as a smaller one.
The bigger motor can deliver power quickly when it’s called for, but can also deliver less of it without so much waste. And so endowing an EV with a battery big enough to supply power at a rate required to break speed records effectively amounts to the same thing as giving it long-range capability.
Which means that one day, when battery-powered performance cars are mature enough, they’ll render their combustion-engined antecedents obselete. They should be able to go just as fast and deliver just as much entertainment value, and yet because of the much better efficiency of powerful electric motors versus powerful combustion engines, they’ll also go much further between stops.
There are also implications here about the size and shape of the GT car of the future. While hydrogen fuel cells and range-extended hybrids will still allow big cars to travel long distances, an EV simply needs to be a giant battery on wheels in order to go a long way.
It needs the kind of design and packaging we currently associate with mid-engined sports cars: the lowest possible kerbweight, smallest acceptable passenger cell, and the biggest battery you can possibly squeeze in behind it.
So here’s the question: which major manufacturer’s going to be first to create the ‘mid-engined’, long distance, electric GT: a compact, lightweight EV set up for comfort and efficiency, with skinny low resistance tyres, long-travel suspension, two seats – and the perfect weight distribution of a sports car? My money’s on the French there too.