FIELD NOTES

Au­tomak­ers are giv­ing hy­brid aes­thet­ics more juice.

Robb Report (USA) - - DEPARTMENTS - ERIN BAKER

Elec­tric cars get sex­ier, bone­fish­ing in the Ba­hamas, Miche­lin’s fad­ing stars, the psy­chol­ogy of giv­ing, a road map for ca­sual of­ficewear, and high-im­pact phi­lan­thropy.

Will elec­tric cars ever re­ally be the sexy choice? We’ll all be forced into them within the next 10 years, but that’s not the same as a driver in the mar­ket for a rare su­per­car ac­tively choos­ing elec­tric­ity over gas. Is it pos­si­ble that the sound of si­lence will be­come as de­sir­able as the thrum of a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V-12 ga­so­line en­gine? Will wires and plugs and a 30-minute charge re­ally ap­peal to the time-is-money bri­gade who can re­fuel and be on the way to the next ap­point­ment in 10 min­utes? (The ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion to that, by the way, is Bent­ley’s Filld trial, which, via an app, sends some­one with fuel to a des­ti­na­tion of your choos­ing—home, of­fice, gym—to fill your Mul­sanne while you’re busy spend­ing your time more pro­duc­tively.)

I re­cently talked to the CEO of Au­to­mo­bili Pin­in­fa­rina, Michael Per­schke, about whether elec­tric own­er­ship can be a sexy propo­si­tion. Pin­in­fa­rina is the leg­endary Ital­ian de­sign house; what it doesn’t know about the beauty of the mo­tor­car isn’t worth know­ing. In 2020, Au­to­mo­bili Pin­in­fa­rina will bring to mar­ket its own elec­tric hy­per­car.

Not only is the com­pany not both­ered about the lack of ex­cit­ing en­gine noise (Per­schke talks about “the sound sig­na­ture of an elec­tric ve­hi­cle—si­lence— be­com­ing the lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence”), but Pin­in­fa­rina is not even both­ered by plugs and ca­bles for charg­ing.

I as­sumed the brand would fol­low the lead of McLaren, which showed me its $2.25 mil­lion three-seater hy­brid hy­per­car, the Speed­tail, at a se­cret ware­house near its HQ in Wok­ing, Eng­land. McLaren let slip at the time that the 250 mph Speed­tail will use wire­less in­duc­tion charg­ing, which de­ploys the mag­netic qual­i­ties of elec­tric­ity to draw up charge to the bat­ter­ies when the car drives over a pad. McLaren will in­stall pads in the 106 Speed­tail own­ers’ homes and is counting on a spread of the cur­rent wire­less-charg­ing tri­als in main­land Europe.

Pin­in­fa­rina, on the other hand, thinks an in­duc­tion plate bolted onto the car will add too much weight, so it is stick­ing with good old-fash­ioned plugs—as is Bent­ley, with its elec­tri­fied Ben­tayga. You can bet th­ese cords will be en­cased in smart, be­spoke lug­gage sets, but still. I’m not con­vinced a long ca­ble stick­ing out of your work of art is the right choice for own­ers who, in many cases, view their lim­ited-edi­tion prized pos­ses­sions as aes­thetic in­vest­ments. McLaren has surely made the right choice: Most charg­ing of elec­tric cars is “des­ti­na­tion” charg­ing, done at home or work, so an in­duc­tion pad will suit most own­ers. It means keep­ing the sil­hou­ette smooth, the lines un­hin­dered, and the car­bon-fiber surfaces flow­ing like liq­uid mer­cury, with­out a sud­den rup­ture for a socket cap. Also, cru­cially,

un­like the fa­bled McLaren P1 and other hy­brid hy­per­cars, the Speed­tail will never run in elec­tric-only mode; its hy­brid tech is there solely for faster ac­cel­er­a­tion and the 250 mph top speed. Sure it will save on gas, but it looks like McLaren has given up on the eco hair-shirt pre­tense and has de­cided to be hon­est in its ma­nip­u­la­tion of hy­brid tech­nol­ogy for rude power. Now that’s what I call a sexy use of elec­tric­ity.

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