Doug DeMuro Discusses Whether Car Enthusiasts Will Ever Embrace EVs – Robb Report

Electric cars go “whirrrr.” Or maybe it’s “woooosh”—the sound of nothing more than the air moving as they pass by. Some electric cars do this little hum to alert you that they’re there, this little “oooooh”-type sound that makes it seem like the electric car is an experimental alien spacecraft, ready to invade Earth, with carpeted floormats and USB-C ports for rear passengers.

But, most importantly, electric cars don’t go “vroom.”

Cars have engines that make noise. This is taught to us from the early days, an unalienable truth, a simple fact of life, like pooping. I’m teaching my two-year-old son about cars right now, he’s absolutely obsessed, and he knows they make two noises: “Beep beep!” and “Vroom!” He doesn’t even know colors, he says “bye-bye” to mailboxes, he’s not really sure what to make of elevators—and yet he’s certain that cars say “Vroom!” He also knows how to poop. But, these days, some cars don’t say “Vroom.” Some cars say “whirrrr” or “wooosh” or “oooooh.” And oh, boy, has this really pissed off car enthusiasts.

Learning to admire the internal-combustion engine, circa 1940s.

H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

I know this because a discussion about electric cars with most gearheads typically results in a furrowed brow, a look of disgust, and then a tirade of hostility that’s usually reserved for the cable industry. Car enthusiasts are also tremendously wary of governments telling them what they can and cannot do with their vehicles, a fear that’s largely inspired by decades of governments telling them what they can and cannot do with their vehicles. For instance, many governments now insist you can no longer pour your used motor oil directly down a street drain. How invasive, those governments. This has led me to wonder: Will EVs ever be embraced by car enthusiasts, or will the mass adoption of electrification cause the latter group to simply die out?

Old and abandoned gas pumps.

The gas pump, like the phone booth, may become a curious relic of a bygone age.

Olena Maikovska/Getty Images

Originally, when the first mass-market EVs were coming out, I was indeed worried it would kill the car enthusiast. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt were the earliest popular plug-in cars, and they both looked like the kind of thing a high school student would reluctantly inherit from grandma after she died. You didn’t want them, in the same way you don’t want applesauce in your hair.

A mature woman charges her electric car.

Sure, your grandmother’s EV had an aesthetic that was less than electrifying, but those days are gone.

But then something happened: electric cars got cool. The BMW i8 showed up, and it looked like an alien spaceship, or at least a German take on an alien spaceship, which meant it was totally insane but also the infotainment system could tell you tomorrow’s weather down to your precise geographical coordinates. Tesla showed up, and inexplicably started putting cars with Lamborghini-fast acceleration in the hands of Midwestern dentists. There’s now a fully electric hypercar called the Rimac Nevera, which is manufactured in the automotive powerhouse nation of Croatia, and the model has more power than the European Union. Things have gotten exciting in the electric-car space.

The Rimac Nevera hypercar.

With 1,914 hp, the all-electric Rimac Nevera hypercar can crush zero to 60 mph in less than two seconds.

Philipp Rupprecht, courtesy of Rimac Automobili.

And yet, what of the enthusiasts? Are they embracing this new crop of zero-emissions performers? Not so much. Still the anger, still the hostility, still the poorly punctuated “government is coming for my gas cars!” rants on Facebook from people named Roger.

This surprises me, because the only real difference between electric cars and normal cars—the ones that say “Vroom”—is the engine sound. Long ago, we ceded manual transmissions, and hydraulic steering, and carburetors, and all the stuff that made old cars feel, by modern standards, old. But sound seems to be the hill that devotees to the internal-combustion engine are willing to die on, and I have a feeling that this isn’t going to change. There are too many people who love to hear the roar of a V-12, too many garage tool chests dedicated to turning a wrench on a big ol’ V-8, too many YouTubers LS-swapping a wheeled office chair, for enthusiasts to ever give up on the gasoline engine. It’s simply ingrained in their souls, and EVs don’t seem to be converting many.

A close up of a car's smoking exhaust pipes.

For devotees of the internal-combustion engine, its soundtrack is nothing short of a symphony.

Teka77/Getty Images

And yet, here’s my hot take: I don’t think car enthusiasts are going away. Quite the opposite. I was recently at a local cars and coffee event in San Diego with my Porsche Carrera GT, which has a fantastic-sounding V-10 engine and costs roughly the same as an apartment complex in Cincinnati, and a 10-year-old boy came up to me asking for a picture. I asked him what his favorite car was, and he responded with “Tesla.” “What about my Carrera GT?” I asked. The V-10 engine? Developed for Formula 1 racing? Best-sounding car ever made? Six-speed manual? Carbon-fiber chassis? Cincinnati apartment complex? The Carrera GT is cool, too, he assured me. But Tesla is better. This kid is going to choose his dad’s gray Model Y as his favorite car over my Carrera GT? Does he KNOW about limited production? My car is INDIVIDUALLY NUMBERED, damn it!

A young boy helps charge his family's electric car.

One of tomorrow’s possible car collectors developing an early bond with battery power.

Maskot/Getty Images

Believe it or not, this conversation isn’t unique. Whenever a kid asks me for a photo at a car show or on the street, I always make sure to ask about his or her favorite car—and the answer is commonly Tesla, or Porsche Taycan, or Rimac Nevera, or some other cool new electric car that decidedly does NOT say “Vroom.” It can be maddening to an old-school car enthusiast. But maybe the next generation will let the old folks stick with the “Vroom”—and they’ll take the “Whirrr” and the “Wooooosh.”

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