Car Hack's Notebook: Electric Cars, The Silent Killer

As regular readers know, I spend a good deal of time behind the wheel of obscenely overpowered machines that have about as much place in the modern world as a guillotine, yet I love each and every one of them. Electric cars, though, have me worried on safety grounds. Seriously. See, we've all read hundreds of reviews marveling at the sheer power, the torque, the majesty of the new breed of electric cars and how they do it all on a thimbleful of kilowatts, even though we don't really know what they are. And good luck to them.

These things used to look like they belonged in a cartoon, with funny little eyes, a six-year-old's voice and a great adventure ahead of it, or on a golf course, or outside a hospital. I'm looking forward to a new power war without the dagger eyes of environmentalists boring into my head. I welcome electric power, don't get me wrong.

But then these dimwit reviewers go on to say it pulls away silently, is so eerily quiet they can hear suspension at work, like that's a good thing. Am I the only one that sees an obvious problem here? Am I the only sane one in a world full of car reviewers simply looking for a new adjective to praise a car with?

If we can't hear the car, neither can pedestrians. So we won't just have to stop every 50 miles to plug our zero-emissions beauty into a noxious, belching power station, albeit through a socket so we can't see the damage we're really inflicting. We'll have to pull over every five miles to scrape an old person off our wheels, or a child from the front bumper.

When a Lamborghini flies at full-chat you can hear it from the next County and unless you've already stuck a "Goodbye Cruel World" sign on your chest you will not step out in front of the thing. Now imagine that 100 mph electric beast announcing its arrival with the quiet whir and perhaps a flicker from the battery lead...

How can we be so worried about the environmental impact of gas we can't see hurting the world in 20 years that we go and build cars that can kill us right now?

Now I am going to admit I have never been approached, passed or left behind by an electric car at speed. We don't have the Tesla yet and the electric cars I have seen would be more readily classed as golf buggies. Our hybrids, though, do seem scary quiet and bear out the theory.

And the approach of Japanese company Girasole suggests I'm right to be concerned, even if I am still laughing at the thought of a Japanese man saying that name, go on, think about it.

They, too, were so worried about their new car's lack of decibels that they put a speaker in the front and t has the soundtrack of hoofbeats blaring out as it whispers its way to the top end speed of 41 mph. Yup, horse feet, clip-clop. That's one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world right there, it costs more than $2 million and it sounds like a $100 piece of living glue.

Of course this opens up a new field, and if I can claim intellectual copyright via Jalopnik I'll see you in court, because this will happen.

We'll have iPod-style downloads of favorite car soundtracks. Your egg-shaped appliance of a car in the future will boast the fine-tuned metallic symphony of an Italian V12, or the brute F-you factor of a big-block V8. The next step forward will be a bizarre step back.

For all our joy and wonder at these marvels of innovation, until this happens it won't be a case of who killed the electric car? We will simply roll our eyes and ask with a weary tone: "Who has the electric car killed now?"

Related:
Mechanical Resonance: The Tesla Motors Press Intro, Complete With Governator; EVette: The Feckless Tesla [internal]