Dr Kong thinks about battleships and talks about two fantastic electric cars which blew him away.

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Dr Kong thinks about battleships and talks about two fantastic electric cars which blew him away.

YAMATO and Musashi, the two biggest and baddest battleships the world had ever seen. Also, from a purely tactical point of view, entirely useless. With their destruction by carrier-based aircraft, the era of the big-gun battleship was finally laid to rest at the bottom of the ocean. 

The writing had been on the wall for a while – Bismarck, pride of the Nazi Kriegsmarine and recipient of the very best German engineering, was effectively knocked out of commission by an old, piddling British Fairey Swordfish biplane. Naval doctrine would henceforth be defined by aircraft carriers. 

Battleships are old hat, and the moral of the story is that, once in a while, the very best of a particular type of technology will reach its zenith and then be rendered obsolete by a great leap forward. 

These noisy, explosive fantasies of war filled my head as I zipped down Lornie Road in near absolute silence. 

Remarkable, I thought, feeling the instantaneous torque emanating from the BMW i3’s electric powertrain. 

All the virtues that internal combustion engineers had been beavering tirelessly to improve on for the past century and more, now deliverable immediately by the electric motor as a matter of inherent fact. 

Refinement, quiet, linearity of power delivery, throttle response. All were better in the Bimmer than even the best petrol or diesel cars. For the first five metres off the line, I could swear this humble potato-shaped lump felt like it could out-leap even a current Audi RS4. 

I was also enjoying, in a family hatchback aimed at the Golf crowd, levels of serenity heretofore unachievable outside a Mercedes S-Class. 

Car enthusiasts will inevitably mourn the passing of the good old internal combustion engine and all the titillating joy of interacting with it. 


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World War II battleships are old hat, and today’s new-age electric cars could be internal combustion’s Bismarck moment. 

No longer will we enjoy hours savouring the difference between an Audi inline-5 and a Subaru boxer, and it will be a heartbreakingly sad day when the roar of the Mustang’s Coyote V8 falls silent like the bellow of a Tyrannosaurus. 

Still, progress is progress. Going from the i3 back into a conventionally powered automobile felt like going from the Starship Enterprise to the RMS Titanic. Like trying to write to Iras on paper after discovering SingPass. This could be internal combustion’s Bismarck moment. The end of an era. 

That was three years ago. Today, people are still walking into showrooms and paying for their COE by cylinder capacity. Tesla still doesn’t officially exist in Singapore, if you discount Elon’s bitchy little Twitter account. 

Prophetic declarations of the electric rapture, it seems, might have been slightly premature. 

There are very good reasons for this, of course, chief amongst which is that most Singaporeans live in high-rise buildings and, therefore, having a personal charging point is out of the question. Yet, even amongst residents of landed estates, the electric car is as rare as an SDP candidate in the Singapore Parliament.    

Then again, while you would not know it today watching a toddler trying to pinch- to-zoom an actual piece of paper, the smartphone had existed for a while before Apple and Samsung put one in every person’s pocket. 

BMW’s i3 is a great idea and fantastic to drive, but its 2015 battery range still caused palpitations and the thing cost more than $200,000 (or one-and-a- half 2 Series Active Tourers). 

As Nokia and Microsoft discovered to their great financial cost, people will not adopt a new technology, no matter the advantages, if it demands inconvenience to be accommodated. 

Enter the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric. A car shaped like a normal family hatch, which is practical to the point it could be used as a taxi  – which, of course, in hybrid form, it actually is. 

Wearing a price tag of $130k and a range of 250km, however, the Ioniq fits into most motoring routines without forcing you to compromise for its existence. I do not recall ever driving more than 150km in Singapore without returning back to base, even during the most gruelling Chinese New Year festivities. 

The rest of the car is the same high-quality, sensible and comfortable package the regular Ioniq Hybrid is. In other words, it will do everything your Corolla ever did without needing to be pandered to in any special way, all the while delivering the transcendent experience of electric motoring. 

This here, then, is a fully realised next-gen proposition ready for the prime time, not just a curiosity, or a toy for the rich. It could, like the iPhone was for smartphones, finally be the industry’s evangelist to the skeptical masses. 

Over the horizon are similarly intriguing, accessible prospects like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt and Volkswagen’s e-Golf. Should the Ioniq prove its point in sales, we could yet be bestowed the privilege of those electric cars, too.