Electric models return to the golden age of the car
Electrical technology gives designers their freedom back and revives legendary models set aside due to their high consumption levels and the price of traditional fuels
Let’s admit it. For decades, the designs of most new cars have lacked a true sense of ‘class’ Those marvellous machines that used to adorn the streets and roads of the world were giving way to increasingly bland and boringly functional models, as society became more and more aware of the problems caused by the pollution from their exhaust pipes, and the price of fuel rose relentlessly.
“We can say that the golden age of the car ended with the oil crisis of 1979. Until then, car designers had not had to worry about the cost of petrol, and had been free to make powerful cars, with a design that was not subject to the needs of efficiency,” explains Luis Miguel Mata Pérez, the Director of the Museum of Automotive History in Salamanca.
“During the first decades of the last century, the car acquired its own identity and set the patterns of design in other areas, but there has been very little real innovation since the 1920s. Cars have basically stayed the same,” adds Luis Miguel Mata Pérez.
Until now. After the uninspiring years of the hyperfunctional car, designers are now exploiting the nostalgia for that golden age of the car when design reigned over all other priorities such as mechanical performance, fuel consumption, weight or the final selling price.
The new electrical mobility and the end of emission restrictions has taken the car back to its origins, turning it once again into an object to be enjoyed. “ With all the new forms of mobility, such as car-sharing and travelling by bicycle, it is becoming less and less necessary to have a car. If you decide to buy one, you do so just for the pleasure of being a car owner“, says the director of the Salamanca Automotive History Museum. The car is just another gadget.
Retro style helps sell cars Digital cameras based on old models but with the latest technology inside, and the rise of electric cars adapted from vintage models show that there is a market. As a result, brands have decided to popularize the car of the future by revisiting their great successes.
Nostalgia ranges from the reissue of old models, such as the BMW Isetta, which now comes under the name of Mircolino , and the CV-1 of the Russian arms giant Kalashnikov, almost a replica of the mythical Soviet car the IZH-21252 Kombi, to new brands with prototypes that seem to be taken from a celluloid prototype of the 1950s, like Nobe.
Nobe is a three-wheeled vehicle made thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that is unshakably riding the retro wave. “Commercial cars have become soulless, vulgar and mundane objects,” the company says on its website. Worse still, the typical electrical models are not particularly elegant either. That’s why we wanted to build a car that would make everyone stand and look, just as people look at a Volkswagen Beetle, and get that warm feeling inside.”
Jaguar has also built an electric version of its 60-year-old E-Type sports model for promotional purposes, but its success has already led the company to announce a limited production of this classic model. The Jaguar E-Type Zero replaces the petrol engine with a 300-horsepower (220 Kw) electric engine, capable of moving from zero to 100 in 5.5 seconds, and the first units will be delivered from 2020 onwards.
Brands like Volkswagen and Honda are also preparing electric or hybrid versions of their great hits, such as the first Civic or the Beetle. The Civic-inspired Honda Urban EV will be the first electric car of the brand for sale in Europe and can be booked from 2019.
Other manufacturers have gone a little further, creating entirely new models but inspired by the lines of the first propulsion vehicles. This is the case of the Infinity brand and its new Prototype 10, a car that is totally electric, neo-futuristic and retro all at the same time, which according to the company “recovers the spirit of the first racing cars for an era of electrified performance”.
Following its own path, Mercedes will produce a prototype based on the essential spirit of the early 20th century models, with the aim of promoting the German brand’s fully electrical EQ line. The EQ Silver Arrow model will use an 80kWh battery, with a range of 400 kilometres, without giving up a capacity of approximately 738 horsepower.
The French brand Peugeot has also presented its concept car inspired by the 504 Coupé, one it will present at the next Paris Motor Show on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its launch. The Peugeot E-Legend aims to be a sample of what vehicles will look like in 2025: electrical, autonomous and equipped with artificial intelligence.
With it, designers avoid futuristic prototypes that make cars look like spacecraft. “Despite all the technology that will come in the future, Peugeot cars will continue to have charisma, they will transmit passion. The future will not be boring and technology will not deprive us of anything,” explains Gilles Vidal, head of design at Peugeot, in a recent interview.