Why Do We Regulate Supercars?

Illustration for article titled Why Do We Regulate Supercars?
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

Today’s supercars are hybrid, carbon-fiber examples of how clean a car can be. Is there really a good reason why this has to be the case? I’m not so sure...


The actual total emissions produced by any of today’s top-rung McLarens, Porsches, Ferraris—any car with production numbers in the hundreds—is pointlessly small. It doesn’t matter how clean they are. They could be as pollutant as a field full of diesel VWs and it wouldn’t make a difference globally.


You could argue that these cars are leaders of technology. In a way, they act something like a prototype you can drive. Much as you could walk into a Cadillac showroom in 1959 and order (at great cost) a car that looked much like a showroom Cadillac for 1960 (this was called the Brougham), an enterprising Porsche buyer could walk into a showroom today and buy a 918 Spyder at great expense, only to get what will be commonplace tech in five or ten years. Except Porsche sold all 918 of their 918s, but that’s beside the point!

There’s another component to this all, too.

You could argue that these supercars are leaders of how we think and feel about the automobile, and how we feel about the environment. It means something, I imagine, for a kid growing up today to see a hybrid as the most desirable, forward-thinking poster car possible.

But you could very easily say to all of these manufacturers, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, McLaren—do whatever you want, and it won’t have a significant effect on climate change. You could just regulate the masses.


You could just as easily argue that that kind of argument could be extrapolated from supercars to all cars as a whole. Trying to cut down climate change by regulating tailpipe emissions on privately-owned cars may not be the most efficient way of getting things done. You could just focus all of your regulatory energy on replacing all of the coal plants in China and leave cars alone, just as you could leave Lambo to sooty carbureted V12s if they wanted.


The problem, then, is of these questions of where you do your climate change cleaning getting tied up in politics, and then they get tied up in emotions, and then you’re right back where you started.

So do you think it really makes a difference that cars like the Porsche 918 are hybrids? Or maybe the technology alone gets you geeked? Your most thoughtful responses are welcome below.


Photo Credit: Porsche

Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.



I don’t have the numbers at the ready here but I recall something to the tune of a single day on a 2 stroke snowmobile is a years worth of driving a modern car. I bring this up because it jibes with the point of perspective, something I’ve been driving home for a while now: cars are no longer part of the big picture in terms of climate change. Yes, they are a factor, and a measurable one and we should continue to persue clean technologies where it makes sense and is feasible to do...but BUT maybe its time we start shifting our gaze to the real problems now that cars, as a whole, are diminishing returns on investment. i.e. we could make all new passenger cars 2x as clean as they are now at great expense and reduce their global climate change impact by a percentage point...or...we could clean up a single coal power plant or increase the regulation on heavy trucking and see big changes with moderate expense. Yeah, it will still be expensive, but the gains will be cheaper.