Electric car, does power still have a meaning?

We often talk about the phenomenal power of certain electric cars, but is it still a relevant topic?

Nearly 2,000 horsepower for the Rimac Revera, 761 horsepower for the Porsche Taycan Turbo S. But also over 1,000 horsepower for the Tesla Model S Plaid, nearly 300 horsepower for the “basic” Tesla Model 3 ( and over 500 for the Performance version, up to close to 580 by certain measurements), the latter being three family sedans with a pretty quiet look… Is that really reasonable?

We could multiply examples of electric cars whose even entry-level versions are equipped with cavalry that would have thrilled any power enthusiast just a few years ago. Take for example a Kia EV6, a comfortable and comfortable crossover, which with 325 horsepower develops almost the same power as a Porsche 911 Carrera from 10 years ago, but a much higher torque (605 Nm against 390 Nm from the German).

So have electric manufacturers gone crazy, offering family-oriented machines that grow into exclusive sports cars? Not really. In fact, power is inherent in electric propulsion, and it is much easier to obtain, even “free”, since in particular torque is one of its natural vectors. It also happens that, contrary to what we know with thermal energy, energy is not obtained at the expense of efficiency and, therefore, autonomy. A technical reality illustrated in particular by Tesla, whose Model 3, including its Performance version, is one of the most efficient electric cars in the world.

Today’s wagons perform better than yesterday’s sports cars

So it is quite natural that original electric cars are often well endowed with horsepower, and that it is not uncommon to count them in the hundreds, a privilege once reserved for exceptional cars. Data that, therefore, have become almost common in recent years.

But is horse counting still relevant? I’m not sure. Our recent article on the true power of Teslas, and especially the discussions that followed, show that viewpoints are very diverse on the subject, which in fact becomes divisive, for several reasons.

Let’s try to see this a little more clearly.

First of all, from a purely technical point of view, for several years now the power of cars is no longer expressed in horsepower, but in kW. But since habits are hard to die and most drivers still think in “horsepower” (!), this measure remains the current universal measure. For completeness, let’s recall the correspondence: to convert 1 kW to power, multiply by 1.36. A car with an output of 200 kW will therefore develop 272 horsepower. However, the power expressed in kW seems even more relevant and adapted to the electric car, since the horses originally take into account the engine speed, which no longer makes sense for an electric motor.

On the other hand, the power values ​​as indicated today no longer really correspond to the reality of an electric power train, as it depends, among other things, on a crucial element, which is the battery charge level. A fortiori when we know that the management of the latter is different according to manufacturers, and even according to models from the same manufacturer… until the launch date. While a thermal car provides the same power with a full or empty tank, the performance of an electric car is not 100% constant depending on the state of charge. According to this test by famous Youtuber Teslabjørn, the management software for the 2021 versions of the Tesla Model 3 Performance would drastically limit the power when the load level drops below 20%, to the point of multiplying by 3 the pass time from 0 to 100 (almost 10 seconds against 3.3) which doesn’t seem to be the case with previous versions.

In short, the measurement and indication of the power of an electric vehicle depends on several parameters that perhaps should be taken into account in order to have a broader view, and closer to reality. One can imagine that this is indicated according to one or more battery levels, for example 100%, 50% and 20%. Admittedly, this would complicate the datasheets a bit, but it would also allow us to see how each manufacturer manages energy according to the performance of the batteries.

“Sufficient” power

But the technical aspect is perhaps not the most important. Based on the fact that the power of electric cars is often high and “sufficient”, is this still a criterion that influences the choice at the time of purchase? I’m not sure. Aside from some performance enthusiasts and other thrill seekers, consumers today clearly prefer comfort, efficiency, range, recharge time, practicality and line over horse racing. When any electric today shoots from 0 to 100 in less time than a sports car from the 80s/90s, the prime is probably elsewhere.

On the other hand, the high power of cars finally affordable to the greatest number can also pose a safety issue, as a young driver who has just obtained his license may find himself without special training behind the wheel of a car of 300 horsepower or more – but above all with monstrous torque acting literally like a catapult between two red lights – for the price of a 3008 diesel. Perhaps manufacturers should introduce a clamp that would be released gradually over the course of the car’s use?

Finally, there is also the question of sobriety – so much debated lately – and ecology. Because if we know that power and efficiency are not incompatible in terms of electromobility, “pulling” the battery to make your tires smoke will necessarily generate more energy consumption and, therefore, wear out the latter, not to mention the other mechanical parts.

There remains the question – difficult to measure – of driving pleasure. If power is not the only criterion in the matter, it participates however strongly. But this is another much broader debate: are pleasure and sobriety compatible?

You have two hours.

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