Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars?
Although seen as a late 20th century invention, electric vehicles actually predate the moving picture by four years. Thomas Parker invented the first commercially practical electric car in 1884 in Wolverhampton while Louis Le Prince showed Roundhay Gardenthe first film, to an audience in Leeds in 1888.
The Brits quickly shoveled the two hits out of the country so the Americans could get rich, of course, but oddly enough, the two inventions were slow to collide. Indeed, the first mainstream movies to convince us that we could one day abandon our addiction to burning the fossilized remains of ancient plants were released by Steve Spielberg, Ridley Scott and James Cameron in the late 1900s.
But how realistic was their portrayal of electric cars? And above all, which were the coolest? Read on for our Hollywood EV Top Trumps, which should settle the matter once and for all…
Turners ‒ Blade Runner 2049
An LAPD electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) flying car used by Ryan Gosling’s Officer K in his long hunt for Harrison Ford’s paranoid Deckard.
Range anxiety: 0/10. Powered by “quantum batteries”, it can fly for hours over cities and through the abandoned corridors of an abandoned Las Vegas.
Freshness factor: 8/10 Deliberately boxy 1980s design offset by flight capability, interior display and Gosling/Harrison piloting history.
Features we want: Flying. obvs.
Resemblance to reality: Some ‒ eVTOL taxis are being trialled at Heathrow at the moment.
APC M577 – aliens
This United States Colonial Marine Corps light armored vehicle is ideal for troop transport and can be deployed by dropship.
Range anxiety: 2. The M577 doesn’t have to worry about running out of power, thanks to its own multi-fuel gas turbine that can generate electricity when the batteries are low. Unfortunately, the vehicle is hampered by its vulnerability to acidic blood pumped by xenomorph aliens in high-speed collisions.
Freshness factor: 7. At 3.38m wide, it takes a lot of freeway and is daunting in built-up areas but useful for blowing things up.
Features we want: There’s plenty of space if you ditch the three days worth of ammo, plus a rotating observation turret and autopilot.
Resemblance to reality: Unlikely to inspire the creators of your everyday transport vehicle.
Light cycle – tron the legacy
Lightweight motorcycle-like vehicle with protective hood and driver-specific color scheme.
Range anxiety: 0, in gameworld where liquid electricity is available. (10 in the real world because it has no energy storage system.)
Freshness factor: 5. Can only move in straight lines, take 90 degree turns, and irritates other road users by leaving a blinding trail of light in its wake.
Features we want: Ability to dissolve when no longer needed (savings on parking), all glowing lights, outrageous accelerations.
Resemblance to reality: Was available from Parker Brothers as the Neutron Electric Motorcycle in a very limited edition of 25 bikes per year. Starting price $55,000 (£46,000).
Audi RSQ – I robot
Back when Will Smith was fighting robots instead of stand-up comedians, the Chicago Police Department gave him this sporty little coupe.
Range anxiety: 2. It never seems to need recharging although Audi hasn’t released the actual battery specs.
Freshness factor: 9. Any car strong enough to survive repeated violent robot attacks, huge explosions and back flips, then howl through a highway tunnel for a mile, crash into a wall and let the driver out unscathed is ideal for any urban family.
Features we want: Rear-hinged scissor doors, spheres instead of wheels, voice-activated operating system, ability to turn with the handbrake without using the handbrake.
Resemblance to reality: Had a chilling similarity in design to the Audi R8 launched in 2006, two years after the release of I, Robot ‒ the EV version has been with us since 2015, but without all the futuristic bells and whistles.
SAPD Cruiser – the wrecker
Silvester Stallone’s risk-taking cop John Spartan is cryogenically frozen with villainous Wesley Snipes until unfrozen in 2032 by jolly LAPD cops with slow-moving self-driving cars.
Range anxiety: 1. The hybrid with a range of over 120 mpg meant Sly never had to refuel while refueling after Wesley Snipes.
Freshness factor: 4. Dorky future cop Sandra Bullock loving the greatest 90s advertising jingles doesn’t add to the low-rider vibe.
Features we want: “Securo-O-Foam” safety foam that protects the crew from serious injury in the event of a crash, or could be the basis for a big foam party.
Resemblance to reality: Amazingly, it was a General Motors concept car created in 1992 to demonstrate the lightweight carbon fiber composite, hybrid/two-stroke engine combo and low drag coefficient.
Lexus 2054- Minority report
While Minority Report’s deeply-studied future technology relies on mag-lev transport pods, when Tom Cruise’s cop goes on the run, his nifty Lexus sports coupe runs on fuel cells.
Range anxiety: 0. Everything is electric everywhere in Spielberg’s future fantasy world.
Freshness factor: 10. Low rider, big wheels, basically a ball.
Features we want: Smooth curves, fuel cells, anti-crash structure and biometric security.
Resemblance to reality: Spielberg has assembled professors from MIT to help him build his future world and so far their predictions on facial recognition, predictive policing, voice-activated homes and personalized ads are correct, so this isn’t maybe just a matter of time.
Biofuel powered DeLorean DMC-12 ‒ Back to the Future Part II
In Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown uses food scraps, banana peels, and leftover beer to power his legendary DeLorean with a cold fusion version.
Range anxiety: 1. Assuming you don’t run out of leftovers.
Freshness factor: 4 Without time travel, it’s a bit of a mess, Doc. Sorry.
Features we want: Time travel, obvs and cold fusion.
Resemblance to reality: Launched this year, the four-seat DeLorean Alpha5 from famed Italian Italdesign is essentially an EV version of the car from the movies. Just without time travel or flying. And don’t try to fill it with banana peel.
Audi R8 etron – Iron Man III
Given that the movie version of Tony Stark is based on Elon Musk, it seems a bit unfair that when Iron Man goes all-electric on his third outing, he should prefer the Audi R8 over the Tesla.
Range anxiety: 0 No need to worry about guessing with this one. Its range is 300 mph. How can we be so precise? That’s product placement, my friend (see Reality Likeness, below).
Freshness factor: 8 I mean, look at him. Oh yeah, and Iron Man drives it.
Features we want: The squeal of the tires, stemming from the car’s 612 lb-ft of torque, as well as the droning “sporty e-tron sound” created by two amplifiers in the luggage compartment, virtual cockpit, head-up display and system sound. Basically everything.
Resemblance to reality: The advantage of product placement is that it is available now. Just visit any Audi retailer near you and pick one up for £82,150. Well, maybe next year…