It’s an exciting – dare I say it, highly charged – time for the electric vehicle market. Not only have some of the world’s key names in the industry launched some rightly lauded new electric machines in the past year (with offerings from BMW in particular winning praise from critics and drivers alike) but there seems to have been a real change in attitude from manufacturers and consumers in terms of what an electric vehicle can offer. The limits of performance and automotive style are being pushed like never before.
There are several players in particular that are helping to shape this electric future. Marques such as Tesla with their astonishing Model S, have shown that high performance and timeless style need not be the preserve of gas guzzlers. They have demonstrated that electric is not solely about efficient, short-haul urban journeys and whooshing commuters about in micro cars. Instead the classic idea of “motoring” as a statement and as a pastime of its own is in safe hands.
And there are more reasons for excitement in 2014. In much the same way that Formula 1 showcases the technologies and the design prowess of big international manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and the like, a new racing series, Formula E, is set to do the same – but for electric. The series promises so much: cities from London to Los Angeles will host street circuits and the all-electric racers will do battle over 10 rounds. The idea is that the enticing prospect of these cutting-edge machines sweeping soundlessly past many of the world's great urban landmarks will not only inspire enthusiasts but people all around the world to embrace the technology more broadly.
Plenty of high-profile figures in the auto industry as well as environmentally minded figures from all sorts of disciplines are adding their endorsement to Formula E. The latest convert this past week being bona fide Hollywood big dog Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio has set up a team with Gildo Pallanca Pastor, the Monégasque entrepreneur behind electric pioneers Venturi Automobiles. While presumably having quite a lot of fun along the way, DiCaprio’s broader purpose is to push a message of sustainability and eco responsibility. DiCaprio joins other big names entering Formula E such as Richard Branson’s Virgin franchise and familiar international racing car-builders such as Renault, McLaren and Dallara, to provide unprecedented reach for the whole electric-vehicle movement.
It’s a great message for 2014 – not only to the likes of BMW with their i series and other manufacturers who are part of the vanguard of alternative-fuel cars – but also to those who have missed a trick and are yet to embrace the electric future.
So when you're on the streets of Beijing, Miami, Buenos Aires, LA, Berlin or London next year: do keep your eyes open. The quietest racing cars in the world are coming.
Tom Edwards is news editor for Monocle 24.