Travel & Leisure

Electric Dreams: Take an Inside Look at the Future of Eco-Friendly Cars

A new generation of hybrid and all-electric cars means a home charge that takes minutes, not hours—and far fewer planet-harming emissions

Eco-friendly cars are set to ensure that the next decade of vehicle design will be the most revolutionary and disruptive since the automobile was invented. While the internal combustion engine (ICE) may have ruled the industry for more than a century, the world is targeting a future free from the CO2 emissions associated with fossil fuels.

Governments are setting tougher emissions targets, while cities such as Paris, Madrid, and Rome plan to ban diesel and petrol-powered vehicles in the near future. And who wants the “best” car in the world if you can’t pull up outside the Four Seasons George V in Paris?

Reinventing the Wheel

For luxury car makers, this future poses a quandary. Decades of heritage and experience center around the undeniably evocative qualities of the traditional engine. It is a quantifiable demonstration of engineering ability, prestige, and prowess. Then there are the associations with performance, racing, refinement, and skills that have been honed over generations.

Tesla car charging in Amsterdam
A Tesla electric car charging on an Amsterdam street. Tesla also has its own Supercharger network across Europe, North America, and Asia, allowing drivers to charge their vehicles mid-journey in just 30 minutes. Image: Alamy

So the likes of Jaguar, Bentley, and Aston Martin are quite literally having to reinvent the wheel, or at least the engine. The driver of tomorrow needs either a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), one that combines a conventional internal combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system, or an all-electric model (EV) with zero emissions. But being green isn’t enough—hybrid and electric cars need to look good and perform well, too.

Engineering Luxury

Tesla is the pioneer here, its range of EVs combine conservative styling with far-from-conservative performance. Tech pioneers swapped en masse to the brand, buying into its Silicon Valley backstory and disruptive positioning.

The gauntlet was thrown down for an array of EV sports cars from other brands that are set to redefine the hypercar experience, tapping into the burgeoning market for $1m-plus cars that exist as part investment, part indulgence, and that are as functional as they are fabulous. The idea of a sub-150-mile (241 km) range will be all but forgotten as 300–400 miles (483–644 km) becomes mainstream, alongside 15-minute charge times.

People admiring cars on lawn
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was founded 70 years ago. While it is one of the world’s most prestigious classic car competitions, it is also home to vehicles of the future—as with this showcase of 2019’s latest models.

Events like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance are the true stomping ground of these rarefied machines. While the annual charity event—of which Christie’s International Real Estate is a sponsor—won’t take place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is usually held on the Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. In the past, it has hosted the most exclusive exhibition of show cars in the world, including vehicles powered by alternative sources, whether steam, electric, or a variety of hybrid technologies. Some, such as the all-electric Pininfarina Battista and Porsche Taycan, made their North American debut there.

And what of the luxury hybrid vehicles? Bentley’s Bentayga hybrid is leading the charge, alongside new models from Mercedes and Range Rover. Aston Martin is designing a hybrid set to be the most powerful in the marque’s range, while Lamborghini and Ferrari are poised with entrants that are spectacular in both style and performance.

Jaguar’s iPace electric car
Jaguar’s all-electric iPace has been praised for its elegance and economy, with reviewers calling it a refined, comfortable, and sporty alternative to the Tesla.

System Reboot

By 2025, this market will once again look very different. Battery technology will continue to advance although even hybrids are being threatened by new legislation. Behind the scenes, plans are in place to cater for these changes. Bentley has promised to have its first all-electric model in production by mid-decade, a time when Aston Martin also hopes to finally have its all-electric Lagonda sub-brand up and running. Rolls-Royce will inevitably have ironed out the perceived flaws in electric propulsion, having unsuccessfully tested the waters with its Phantom 102EX almost a decade ago, and have a peerless EV variant on sale.

Customers will clearly have plenty of choice, but will buyer mentality shift as fast as the market? Companies such as Lunaz Design are promising the best of both worlds, transplanting electric powertrains into venerable classics—Rolls-Royces and Jaguars among them—giving them new life. Aston Martin and Jaguar are also exploring the potential of such a service as a factory option.

Mercedes-Benz EQC SUV engine
A visitor to the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show views the Mercedes-Benz EQC SUV electric engine. Image: Alamy

Faster charging stations are on the way, as everyone else plays catch-up with Tesla’s Supercharger network. The new Ionity network, backed by Volkswagen Group, Ford, BMW, and Daimler, is aiming for 400 Europe-wide 350-kW stations by year end. In practice, that means charging from near empty to 80 percent capacity in just over 20 minutes in a compatible car such as the Taycan. Technology has evolved. The soul of the machine is gradually following. Here are six cars that point the way to a very different future for motoring.

Lamborghini Sián

Green sports car driving into garage
Powerful and extremely exclusive, the Lamborghini Sián uses hybrid technology to complement its futuristic style.

Lamborghini is going bespoke with its forthcoming Sián FKP 37. Rather than relying on pure electricity, the Sián is the first-ever Lamborghini “mild hybrid,” marrying the company’s traditional V12 with a 48-volt electric system to add a jolt of acceleration when needed (which is presumably most of the time), along with a complex system of vents and flaps to cool the tech. It’s all swathed in the company’s now-familiar Stealth Fighter aesthetic, an angular composition of carbon fiber, bold colors, and big spoilers. Only 63 will be built, at $3.6m each.

lamborghini.com

Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

Bentley car in modern home's driveway
After 100 years at the forefront of luxury motoring, Bentley has taken a look into its next century with its first ever hybrid.

In such exalted company, the Bentley Bentayga seems almost ordinary, with a price list that starts at a modest $164,186. This, however, is the British brand’s first ever hybrid and is a bold step for a company that relies on refining the brutish grunt of a vast engine into a tailor-made suit. Bentley’s effortless go is well catered for by an EV mode, although the motors are mostly boosting the power of the V6 and just taking the edge off fuel consumption. Naturally, the interior is no less bespoke than the marque’s other models. In the absence of any immediate rivals, this is a stealth EV, although the electric-only range is a modest 31 miles (50 km).

bentleymotors.com

Pininfarina Battista

White sports car
Named in honor of the company’s founder Battista Farina, Pininfarina’s electric sports car is limited to just 150 units.

This all-electric hypercar is set to bestow a glowing halo on an all-new brand. The name itself is not new; it originated as a car design studio founded by Battista “Pinin” Farina in 1930. Carrozzeria Pininfarina has now been joined by Automobili Pininfarina, and the Battista is its first product. First shown at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, just 150 examples of this $2.5m car will be built. The company promises the equivalent of 1900PS and a two-second sprint to 62 mph (100 kmh), making it the most powerful Italian sports car in history. The Battista has a fluid simplicity and will be followed by a “more affordable” electric SUV.

automobili-pininfarina.com

Lotus Evija

Silver sports car
With performance as its major focus, the Lotus Evija offers eco-friendly credentials without compromising on speed or power.

Lotus is coming from a different direction. Whereas Pininfarina has unassailable style on its side, the British manufacturer has legendary engineering. New investment is in place, spearheaded by bold plans for 130 examples of the Evija, simultaneously the company’s first ever EV and first true hypercar. The $1.84m Lotus promises to deliver an output of 2000PS and a 250-mile (402 km) range. Shaped by its extreme aero requirements, the Evija is all ducts and voids, with scoops channeling air through the impressive bodywork to twin rear vents.

lotuscars.com/model/evija

Ferrari SF90 Stradale

It may have the classic red hue and the sleek design the brand is famed for, but the Ferrari SF90 Stradale is a much greener machine than its predecessors.

Ferrari’s forthcoming SF90 Stradale isn’t about limited numbers or stratospheric prices. Instead, it is the car maker’s next-generation mid-engine model with projected annual sales in the thousands. The first series production plug-in hybrid to bear the prancing horse badge, the SF90 is a massive cultural shift for a company that arguably did more than any other to create the cult of the internal combustion engine. Expect an electric-only mode for city driving.

ferrari.com/en-EN/auto/sf90-stradale

Porsche Taycan Turbo S

Sports car overlooking snowy mountains
German engineering at its finest is showcased in the stunning Porsche Taycan Turbo S, which sees speed and precision combined with style and eco-friendly credentials.

Porsche’s Taycan arrived at the tail end of 2019 to great acclaim. Somehow, the wizards of Stuttgart have bottled the qualities that built a peerless car dynasty and replicated them in an electric sports saloon. The Taycan goes far and fast—a 256-mile (412 km) range and 2.8-second sprint to 60 mph (96.5 kmh)—with little to no compromise and every advantage of the Porsche badge. Elegant, refined, and desirable, the Taycan proves conclusively that EVs are no obstacle to furthering the ambitions of a long-standing brand. The flagship Taycan Turbo S starts at $171,145.

porsche.com

On the Market

Display Haven in Gordola, Ticino, Switzerland

Grey building exterior
With ample space for vehicles and spectacular countryside on its doorstep, this magnificent property caters equally for recreation and relaxation.

Perfect for a car collector, this work/live space—on the market with Wetag Consulting Immobiliare S.A.—spans 12,744 sq ft (1,184 sq m) and comprises a hall in which to exhibit vehicles, a workshop, an elegant lounge, three bedrooms, five baths, and a gym and sauna. There are storage rooms, offices, and a spacious apartment for a caretaker. Large terraces complete the property.

Waterfront Opulence in Sovereign Islands, Queensland, Australia

Large white modern house
With its indoor pool and spa, climate controlled cellar, and separate, self-contained one-bedroom apartment, this striking home is ideal for hosting friends and family.

A vast basement with parking for 15 cars, plus a jetty and mooring for a large vessel are highlights of this waterfront abode. Galleries of glass frame the views and there are 29 ft (9m) ceilings, wraparound terraces, and granite floors. Available through Prestige Homes of Victoria, other features include an entertainer’s kitchen, games room, TV lounge with bar, and expansive dining room.

Banner image: Pininfarina’s all-electric Battista—the most powerful Italian sports car to date