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Droning on

8 January 2016 By Breakingviews columnists

Tesla Motors is named after Nikola Tesla, pioneer of the AC motors that power the company’s cars. Faraday Future, which just unveiled a sleek racing-car concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, honors Michael Faraday, a scientist upon whose intellectual shoulders Tesla stood.

Breakingviews columnists run the gamut from Apple to Roomba – via a gaggle of scientists – as they weigh in on what kind of association would make an electric vehicle marque desirable for them.

Martin Langfield: I would drive the Einstein, in the hope that relativistic effects would enable me to skip traffic and arrive at my destination before I have departed.

Jeffrey Goldfarb: The only scientist whose car I’m truly interested in is Dr. Emmett Brown, as in “Back to the Future.” Give me a garbage-fueled Mr. Fusion generator and a world where we don’t need roads. The Brown Gigawatt 1.21 is the vehicle for me.

Rob Cox: Though I very much like the Tesla Model S and the Maserati Ghibli, I am holding out for the Heisenberg UP. Apart from its extraordinary styling, unparalleled handling and a killer sound system, the Heisenberg’s primary feature is its ability to consistently get around speed traps, drink-driving checks and all traffic signals undetected by law enforcement through the simple expedient of being somewhere else at the time.

Kevin Allison: Grab your surfboard and head down the coastal highway in the new, all-electric Dodge Feynman camper van. Nights under the stars await in this modern take on the quantum physicist’s specially modified 1970s Dodge Tradesman. The Feynman comes in beige or sky blue with optional wood paneling. It sports a pop-up roof, extendable fly tent, hammock and water-filtration system powered by a rooftop solar array. The Tesla battery can take you from Pasadena to southern Baja on a single charge. Comfortably sleeps four. Bongos not included.

(Editor’s note: That’s enough scientists – moving on.)

John Foley: I don’t drive, but if I did I’d drive an Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse. The first all-British-made family car in a generation, it’s sturdy, dent-resistant and takes pride in being a bit uncomfortable. The ONP is fuelled entirely on wind-generated electricity and is painstakingly built by English workers in the UK’s new northern manufacturing heartland, championed by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. It is consequently unreliable and hideously expensive.

Andy Critchlow: Bikemakers like U.S. firms Specialized and Trek have partnered with automakers to design bicycles. It could be time for them to get into cars. Bikes are increasingly adorned with electronic drive trains or small battery motors. There’s lots of crossover technology, for example in carbon composite materials. Specialized is seen as the Apple of the bike world and the company increasingly needs to broaden its range because fewer people are upgrading from their top-of-the-range $12,000 bikes. I’m waiting for Apple to make an electric car, but if Specialized produced one it would be tempting.

Olaf Storbeck: As long as I live in one of Europe’s biggest cities, I won’t drive a car, no matter what drive train or brand. Private vehicles are by far the most inefficient way of getting around in cities, and neither Tesla nor Faraday will change that. On urban roads, the average car needs 10 times more space per passenger than a tram that is just 20 percent occupied. In London, daytime traffic on average moves at nine miles an hour. I beat this easily on my Brompton folding bicycle, and also save the 3,500 pounds the average British driver spends on his car each year.

(Editor’s note: That’s enough bicycles. Moving on again.)

Antony Currie: Forget the driving part – go straight for the driverless options. Mostly I’d just hail pod-like autonomous taxis. For my leisurely retreats to the country, I’d slip into the Mercedes F-105 concept car whose front seats turn 180 degrees to face those in the back. I fancy the idea of at least one of them morphing into a bed. That said, driving an electric version of a Sherman tank to scare other vehicles out of my way on city streets and busy motorways also has appeal …

Kate Duguid: With a woman finally at the controls of the Millennium Falcon, I’m ready for a speedster that runs on Jabba the Hutt’s liquefied remains. Or I’d ride around on a Roomba vacuum cleaner, like the famous cat on YouTube.

Reynolds Holding: I’d drive a Sphero BB-8. This little guy, based on the “Star Wars” character, rolls around on a ball controlled through a magnetized pod that floats on the top. It beeps, it projects holograms, it imitates voices: great stuff. And you control it through an iPhone. A life-size version would probably be able to roll over anything that got in its way.

Neil Unmack: Forget cars. Drones are the way forward, baby.

Robert Cyran: I want the Ehang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle. The Chinese drone maker unveiled the world’s first passenger model at CES this week, an electric machine capable of carrying one passenger at up to 500 metres altitude for 23 minutes at 100 km per hour. Alternatively, I would have no resistance to driving an Ohm electric car.


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