Now prior to getting into this post, please let me state, that my next car will be an EV, so please don’t get too angry with me for writing these words.
A look into the past
No, this does not mean I believe in the general concept of a soul or that things could have one. Maybe character would be a better word?
But with petrol powered cars the sound their engine made, the way their engines were built was a huge part of a brands identity.
I am in my thirties now, so neither young or old, but back when I was young, Formula 1 had a very specific period, the great era of V10 cars. And I in particular remember BMWs P82 engine and the excitement and goose bumps that came from hearing it pass on high revs on my grandfathers TV when we watched the races together, back when he was still with us.
That noise is hard to describe, but if you head over to youtube, or your favourite video homepage, I am sure you can find footage of Pablo Montoya passing Schuhmacher in that brilliant Williams FW24 a couple of times, or his Monza Lap in 2004. To this day that high pitched noise, like a scream straight out of hell, is what is burnt into my head as what a BMW should sound like and it seems BMWs engineers felt the same, so they put a V10 into their M5 back in the day so you could have that sound coming from your saloon cars as well.
This sound, that sheer feeling of immense power one got from hearing it even afar made me a BMW fan to this day. My first cars weren’t BMWs and neither was my first sports car. But the first new car I bought was one, the second I could afford it. Why? Not because of any logical reasons, because that sound injected BMW fanboyness into may veins a long time ago.
Another example is Alfa Romeo and my favourite car of all times, the Spider. This car I fell in love with due to a film, the Graduate starring a young Dustin Hoffman and in the end chasing after his girl in an Alfa Romeo Spider, the original. The car died on him, by the way, probably because it was out of gas, but maybe because it’s an Alfa. But the noise of that little Twin Cam Engine in there is stuck in my head. It is so stuck in my head, I actually got my self one. That car broke on me, while driving it, in a corner to be exact and I had an horrible crash in it, swore to my self, never to get one again and yet I find my self browsing the web for one ever so often again. I miss that sound in my life.
Audi had one too, the “Urquattro” with it’s inline 5 cylinder engine and Walter Röhrl showing the world what rally driving actually meant. My father is an Audi Fan and had one of these, the street version of course, so now you get to guess what brand my first proper car was.
I know that we need to get out of fossil fuels, this is a nobrainer. But these sounds will very likely be stuck in my head to the day I die and frankly I am happy to have heard these engines.
The most modern approach to personal transportation are electric vehicles, not cars, vehicles. There is a difference between these two words as my future brother in law keeps saying. A vehicle gets you from A to B, but a car raises emotions. And I agree with that 100%.
Don’t believe me that EVs don’t wake emotions? Go ahead, watch a Formula 1 race and then watch a Formula E race and tell me which was more exciting.
But this is where the issue begins for me and I am sure also for manufactures.
Not for Tesla of course, since Tesla owners are mostly equal fanboys as Apple users. Try telling them their cars has even one flaw….
But for established manufactures? Big problem, because currently every EV is basically the same, electric engine with more or less power, big touch screen mounted in the cockpit an no sound at all. Except for some strange SciFi noises that are played back through speakers to warn pedestrians. You can call your EV a Mustang Ford, but the fact is, it might as well be a KIA or Lada, but one thing it certainly is not, a Mustang.
EVs are actually very practical vehicles by now, they have enough travelling range and at least here in Europe you have plenty of fastchargers to get you where you need to go, they have become good, no question.
But, they lack soul. No matter if Audi puts prints of them in Skiing resorts and puts the word Quattro in, if Ford calls it Mustang or VW E-Golf. This is playing on past glory, but has nothing to do with the current vehicle.
And this is where Polestar enters. No, not the Polestar 1 or the Polestar 2. But what they showed off with the Polestar O2.
This is a car, not a vehicle. It wakes emotion by design, just do a websearch and look at the pictures. The way it stands, the curves, it’s a convertible, you just know this will be fun.
That is at least to me. Oh and get that drone out, no one needs that.
But I think this is where manufactures will need to go, sounds are in the past and so are the old halo names and engine designs. Using the word 911 for an electric Porsche is a sure way to sell only a very few. But coming up with a new design, new name and defining the brand through design and not through sound could work.
You are reading the words of a complete and utter petrolhead here, but the Polstar O2 is to me the first electric car, the first one, teenage me would have put a poster of on the wall, the first grown up me would actually want to have, not for logical reasons, but because I feel I need that. Something I would have never thought of a Volvo.
The cars on my teenage wall where a Ferrari Testarossa, a BMW 8 Series and a Porsche 911 convertible in case you ask. Never a Volvo.
Not sure, maybe I am wrong, but personally I could never go for an electric SUV that is called the same as an actually cool car from the past. Just imagine the new 2.5 tonnes Alfa Romeo Spider SUV….