‘We can make a fun electric car,’ says Gordon Murray – and it sure won’t have 2,000 horsepower

Electric cars are already doing a lot. They are quiet, comfortable and easy to use. They relax the driver more than their internal combustion relatives, and their acceleration performance can be truly breathtaking.

But beyond the Grand Prix of traffic lights, are they fun to drive? Can they appeal to driving enthusiasts who currently aspire to a Lotus Elise, Alpine A110 or Mazda Miata?

Gordon Murray, the legendary car designer who was instrumental in Ayrton Senna’s Formula 1 world championship titles, then gave us the McLaren F1, believes he can create an exciting electric vehicle – and one that doesn’t he doesn’t need extravagant horsepower to deliver a thrilling ride.

I recently spoke to Murray about plans to expand his business and the new electric vehicle division. This division, called Gordon Murray Electronics, will focus on developing electric vehicle platforms for other manufacturers.

But there is another part of Gordon Murray’s business; the one who is currently working on the T.50 supercar, the spiritual son of the McLaren F1, and who is called Gordon Murray Automotive.

All GMA has on its track record is driver enjoyment. And before the world goes fully electric, that roadmap will include cars powered by the same high-revving V12 as the T.50. That engine will eventually acquire hybrid capabilities before legislation finally lowers the curtain on internal combustion – and after that, GMA will produce fully electric cars.

“I hope we never make a boring electric car,” Murray told me on a video call, shortly before the UK’s lockdown measures were relaxed. “We have a lot of very good young designers on board and they are learning the craft and what makes a car feel good and behave well.”

Echoing a set of principles laid out by his company GMA, Murray says, “I promise you one thing: we’ve said before that GMA will never make more than 100 models or variations, and that’s a promise. Whatever we do and whatever powertrain it has, it will be the funniest thing to drive. Compared to a naturally aspirated V12? Probably not, but compared to other people’s electric cars? Absolutely.”

At this point, Philip Lee, CFO of GMA, joins the conversation to reassure that Murray’s particularly tedious approach to lightweight engineering is alive and well. “Gordon looks at a car and takes it apart and says ‘it’s too heavy, it can change, it can come off’. It’s an integrated engineering method and a way of working that not many engineers are probably used to … it goes right to the heart of the business, and I can assure you that for all future products this will continue. to be the case. . “

After delving into my question about the feasibility of a light and fun electric sports car, Murray continues, “I’m sure we can create an electric vehicle that is still fun, at some point. But I promise you it won’t be 2000 horsepower [hypercar]. “

Murray adds: “Until we have the next generation of battery technology – because the energy density is so bad right now on current batteries – you can’t have your cake and eat it, unfortunately, when it comes to supercars. “

Reflecting on his design company’s plan to produce a B-segment electric SUV, Murray said, “When it comes to a four- or five-seat city SUV, you absolutely can. [have your cake and eat it]. If you can reduce that weight to 1000 kg, that will be fun. “

Can you really bring such a vehicle down to 1000 kg, I ask?

“Well, we’ll try,” Murray replies in the blink of an eye. “But if you’re going to make, with current battery technology, a 2,000 horsepower supercar, it’s never going to have decent vehicle dynamics, because it’s going to weigh almost two tonnes.

Murray doesn’t name names, but is surely referring to a trio of 2,000 horsepower electric supercars to come later this year and next, in the form of the Lotus Evija, Rimac C_Two, and Automobili Pininfarina. Battista. While they’re not quite two tons, all are undoubtedly heavier than what Murray would like a supercar bearing his name to be. Lotus claims its Evija has a target weight of 1,680kg, but is powered by a relatively small 70kWh battery, 30% smaller than that of a Tesla Model S.

The makers of these cars, especially Rimac with its C_Two, say an electric drivetrain can be fun and characterful with torque vectoring, where the distribution of power to the car’s four engines is adjusted to improve handling. and give the car a clean feel.

Murray is not so sure. “The only thing I’ve always told people is that unless things have changed since I was in school, you can’t change the laws of physics, you know?” You can disguise things, but you can never change the laws of physics. “

I’m suggesting how torque vectoring might help here, but Murray doubles. “That’s what I mean, it’s disguise. Ultimately, for a given weight, a car will only respond to inputs up to a point. You can disguise it to a point with active roll control, all of that, but ultimately by moving a mass left and right, quickly it comes down to the mass of the car.

As my 30 minutes allotted with Murray comes to an end – and I suspect Gordon is a man who keeps his workdays tight – I quickly say how I thought “SUV” would be a forbidden word in the Gordon Murray dictionary.

“It would be in GMA, I can promise you … People are not allowed to use ‘SUV’ or ‘carrier’ in this business. But I have to say [at Gordon Murray Design] I’m just going with the flow. That’s what people call it. They are not sport utility vehicles, are they? They look more like … I preferred the original tile. I had three Renault Espaces when they came out in the 1980s and they were called multi-purpose vehicles, people carriers. And it was such a brilliant car.

Returning to the idea of ​​calling his future electric car an SUV, Murray says, “The problem we have is that I hate the name, but if we come up with our own name, no one will know what we’re talking about.

“What people are looking for in the city is something that’s easy to drive, easy to park, easy to maneuver, and with a higher driving position than a car you don’t take into the city. And unfortunately, the generic term for this is “SUV”. Maybe I should come up with a new name.


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