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The all-electric Porsche Taycan Turbo S can accelerate from zero-100 km/h in a claimed 2.8 seconds.The Globe and Mail

The new Porsche Taycan has a party trick that never grows old.

Drive down the road, any empty road, at any speed, and then mash your foot to the floor, and the car will take off like a jet fighter from an aircraft carrier.

No need to drop down a few gears. No need to rev the engine. Just press your foot on the throttle and hold on tight.

It can do this because it’s an electric car, and electric vehicles (EVs) don’t need the driver to tap down through the gears to find the optimum revolutions per minute. The best possible torque is always ready to go with just a press of the foot.

Sports drivers get excited about horsepower, which is the ultimate strength of the engine. The more horsepower, the faster the car will travel. But it’s torque that provides pulling power. The greater the torque, the heavier the load the vehicle can tow; the lighter the load, the quicker the acceleration.

Owners of Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s recognize this, and Mini drivers will discover it soon with the Mini-E. They drive like swift golf carts – and these are commuter vehicles.

Performance-car engineers have long known the benefits of electrification and its instant response. The $1-million McLaren P1 from 2013, for example, used an electric motor with a relatively small 4.7 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery to fill in the performance gaps of its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8. When accelerating up through the gears, there will always be tiny lags with each gear change as the rpm changes and the turbos catch up, but the P1′s electric motor kept pulling through those lags for a seamless rocket-ship experience.

That same year, Porsche brought out a challenger to the P1 with its 918 Spyder, also a $1-million hybrid sports car, which had a 4.6-litre engine twinned with a slightly larger battery and motor. Acceleration for both vehicles was phenomenal; Porsche’s official zero-to-100-kilometre-an-hour claim for the 918 was a blistering 2.6 seconds, and zero to 200 km/h was 7.2 seconds.

Electric range was pathetic – 19 km for the Porsche and less than that for the McLaren – because the batteries were small. Nobody cared. Certainly, nobody was looking for Prius-like fuel consumption. The electric motor was only there for the enhanced performance, and its development had come directly from the racetrack.

Now, the traditional internal combustion engine is being replaced by the electric motor, and electric performance is both simpler and cheaper than that of a gas-powered car.

For example, the all-electric Taycan Turbo S can accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in a claimed 2.8 seconds, and 200 km/h in 9.8 seconds. Yes, it’s the $215,000 top-of-the-line model, but it’s a lot less expensive than the 918.

The power and torque that’s possible is mind-blowing. Gas-powered vehicles generally need larger and heavier engines to produce more power; the same is true for EV motors, but on a smaller scale that’s growing even smaller and denser as development rushes forward. The Taycan Turbo S produces 750 hp and 774 lb.-ft. of torque, considerably more than the top-of-the-line and similarly priced 911 Turbo S.

As battery technology and efficiency improves, the sky’s the limit. The most powerful version of the just-announced GMC Hummer EV will produce 1,000 hp and an off-the-charts 11,500 lb.-ft. of torque. It will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in less than three seconds. The performance of EVs will be limited more by tires and chassis than by their sheer thrust.

Of course, if there’s one company that will push the limits, it’s Tesla. Its batteries are even denser and less constrained. The 100 kWh battery in the $101,990 Tesla Model S is capable of accelerating from zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds, but if you upgrade to the $124,990 version, and then switch it to “Ludicrous Plus Warp Speed” – yes, that’s one of several options on the display screen – it will make the jump in a claimed 2.3 seconds. This is a family sedan, don’t forget, not a track-oriented car like the Porsche.

Late next year, Tesla says it will start delivering its hopped-up $189,990 Model S Plaid version, which has three motors instead of two, can produce 1,100 hp and can apparently make the zero-to-100 km/h jump in less than two seconds.

Is there no end to this? Or will EVs just grow faster and faster until they exceed the abilities of even the best drivers?

There will always be drivers who want something faster and are prepared to pay for it. In the meantime, those batteries can be used more practically by the vast majority of people who just want to travel longer distances and recharge less frequently. The clever 800-volt system in the Taycan can be largely replenished at a Level 3 charger in less than half an hour.

And if performance-car people get to say they’re saving the planet and use green licence plates that let them drive solo in the high-occupancy vehicle lane, so much the better.

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