Handing over a $1.4 million electric car to a blog is interesting, especially when the company operates a "you break it, you buy it" policy. Can the 268 HP Protoscar Lampo live up to its promise of electrifying performance?
Protoscar estimates the Lampo costs a million Euro. Larger production volumes would probably bring the price down to a third of that, but Protoscar is no car maker, so there are no plans to actually produce the car for sale. The purpose of the Lampo prototype is to showcase what can be done with available and nearly available technology. Obviously it would be extremely unfair to evaluate it the same way you would a regular car from a known manufacturer, so let's do just that.
Driving the Lampo is not that different from driving any other car, apart from the lack of a gearbox. The "central selector," as it's called here, allows you to choose forward drive or reverse. There's also an "E"-mode where the car will brake using mainly the torque of the electric motors, maximizing the energy recovery. This is not intended for regular braking, but works brilliantly holding speed constant or slowing down while driving downhill. The Lampo's main problem is that this is basically the only feature of the car that works as it's supposed to.
If you spend a six-figured amount on a car, you'll want it to fire on all cylinders or whatever that translates to in EV-speak. The Lampo doesn't. In theory its twin motors and battery packs running the front and back wheels separately are good for 268 HP and 325 Lb-Ft of torque, but for "technical reasons" the power output has to be limited to somewhere in the region of 60 % during our test drive. Maximum speed is supposed to be over 125 MPH, but it's been restricted to 75 MPH. Hard acceleration is also out of the question, as that may upset the batteries and cause all sorts of problems. Problems like fire.
Add to that the fact sharp right turns will make the inside of the fender eat into the right front tire, the giant red emergency stop button is cleverly placed on top of the armrest, right where your arm rests, and the seriously multifunctional dashboard display, which is completely unreadable unless you pull over to take a closer look at it. The multi-function screen in the mid-console should be able to show remaining range after calculating the road's undulations, but is, in fact, not able to do that at all. What it will do is let you turn power steering on and off, if you can find the right submenu.
Our initial plan was to give the miracle car from the future a good thrashing on badly maintained roads around Stavanger, Norway, but that was before we had to sign a paper accepting personal economic responsibility if we crash, abuse or destroy any of the half-magic/half-functional electronics. Adjusting plans to reality, we end up driving what turns out to be a still quite powerful, but only semi-functional EV around town with a brief run on the highway. That's still enough to reveal that the brakes aren't powerful enough and going at slow speeds it's hard to tell what the front wheels are up to through the steering wheel. Other than that the car is ok, but not anywhere near what the specs promise.
All in all, speaking in pure car terms, it's safe to say that Protoscar has done an epic job at wasting $1.4 million.
On the other hand, even at half power and with all sorts of malfunctions, the Lampo is one impressive ride. You just have to look at the bigger picture. The car itself is just one of the pieces in Protoscar and its partner's vision of the future. Along with the Lampo they're also developing stuff such like an intelligent charging system and in, Tuscany, Italy, they've even set up a solar plant producing energy for 62,000 miles-worth of driving per year.
It's this idea that producing a car also includes producing and providing the energy needed to run it that's the most important feature of the Lampo. As a product it's nowhere near market-ready, but as an idea of future green motoring, it holds promise.
Ivar is the editor of the best Norwegian motorcycle magazine on the internet, MC24.no