As electric cars like Nissan’s LEAF and Chevrolet’s Volt gain momentum in a world yet to be convinced en masse of their viability, it seems the usual impediments aren’t stopping the wealthy.

One of the biggest objections to cars like the LEAF and Volt is they deliver only so much performance for prices higher than comparable internal-combustion powered cars.

On the debates rage over their merits or lack thereof, and much is the sweat for some over whether an EV or hybrid makes sense for the family budget.


Chevrolet's Volt already attracts stars, such as actress Alison Brie shown arriving at Global Green USA's pre-Oscars party on Feb. 23, in Hollywood. Other elites want more, however. They are looking forward to their exotic hybrids being the star of the show.

But what if cost were no object? What if other factors like exclusivity, being seen as environmentally sensitive, savvy to the cutting edge and other prestige-enhancing factors are what drive you?

Or, if you're an exotic automaker, and don’t want to A) be seen producing only exorbitant cars that spew pollution while delivering horrible fuel economy, and B) don't want to be forced out of business by stringent European emissions regulations, what do you do?

Go green, of course.

At this year’s Geneva Motorshow, the sheer number of electrified high-end concept cars, near-production versions, and production-ready automobiles was noteworthy.

Elite manufacturers either testing the waters or definitely promising something include Rolls Royce, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, and more.

Why would this matter to someone only looking to buy a Volt, or another car in its price range?

Well, if you want to see the broader proliferation for this type of car, anything that helps the prestige of alternative power could be good for everyone.

Further, the more that advanced makers apply their talents to create workable solutions for the most demanding customers on earth, the sooner it could be that longer range, better performing vehicles may become available for the ordinary budget.

At least this is one way of looking at it ...

A few examples

On Monday this week, plans for production were announced for what may be the most expensive hybrid on the planet, the $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid . First announced at the 2010 Geneva show, and now slated to roll off the assembly line by September 2013, the 718-horsepower vehicle promises 78 mpg as measured by the European driving cycle, thanks to a pair of electric motors assisting the 500 horsepower V8 engine.

The 218-horsepower electric motors are to be powered by lithium-ion batteries, and will allow the supercar to travel in EV-only mode up to 16 miles in range, or up to 94 mph.



Porsche will build 918 copies of the 918 Spyder hybrid. Price is $845,000. It has room for one child to be taken to soccer practice, and maybe a couple grocery bags. Optionally, you could buy 20 Chevy Volts at $41,000 each, but your perceived prestige in some circles may go down if you do.

If 918 drivers are feeling less concerned about fuel savings, they can practice 0-60 runs in 3.1 seconds, or more than double the 94 mph EV speed up to an estimated 199 mph.

And if that is not practical enough, how about adding to your two-car garage a Lamborghini hybrid , maybe something with a V8 or V10 engine mated to electric motors that can also troll around town in all-electric mode?

Sources at Lamborghini have reportedly said such a car may come along by 2015, and they are working on the project now, as is Ferrari, which may have something sooner.

At this year’s Geneva show, Ferrari told reporters that its prototype 599 hybrid could cost as much as twice the $339,000 gas-powered 559 GTB Fiorano, but this could come down in four years to $491,430.

The green Ferrari is said to do 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and is able to hit 125 mph in 10.4 seconds. This is quicker than comparable gasoline-powered Ferraris.

Ramifications

Whether it is right or wrong, good or bad, it's clear there is a widespread push for EVs among the upper crust. Old world supercars are threatened to be targeted by eco-politicians and their replacements threaten to become the new darlings among the wealthy politically correct.

Remaining to be seen is whether gas-electric cars costing hundreds of thousands up to the better part of $1 million will truly help the environment.

Certainly, the time required to pay back the extra cost paid for economy savings might not be measurable in years, but decades, if ever.


Cutting edge Ferraris are supposed to be red, aren't they? Not if they are green like this 599 hybrid, they're not.

At minimum, it is evident that that human beings are emotional, and do things because they want to, not because they’ve sweated the details as people do who decide between a Volt or a Prius.

It’s instructive also that the rich will pay up for exotic hybrids even though the growth curve for battery technology is expected to render major components in their cars soon obsolete.

Will these uber-EVs somehow obtain a collector’s status just the same? Are we misjudging the soundness of their buyers' judgment? What if first generation exotic hybrids increase in value like the ’63 Ferrari GTO did because it was rare and had intrinsic factors that in time made it able to command millions?

Or will the pending crop of exotic hybrids plummet in value if someone comes up with a paradigm shifting battery, or a capacitor-powered EV as some at Tesla predict?

If nothing else, the fact that someone would spend the kind of extra money that an exotic exotic would command could be used to justify a $41,000 Volt.

Think about it: Here we see the beginning of a market where people may pay more than the cost of a small fleet of Volts just to acquire one coveted car with electric-plus-gasoline power. If one followed their rationale, wouldn't it seem much less extreme to pay up for a $41,000 Volt?

We could go on, but will wrap up asking: Just what is this business with quasi-experimental cars that cost so much?

If EVs are supposed to be for the planet, to wean us away from oil, are those people who are producing and buying exotics that can still burn lots of fuel really even contributing?

Maybe. If the cars' R&D helps stimulate EVs across the board, and profits from the sale are turned around and channeled into beneficial avenues, that much could be good.

What do you think?