‘That instant acceleration? That’s cool’: world champion rally driver, Molly Taylor, on why she is just as much a fan of electric cars on the road as off.

Do you know what I love most of all? I love to drive. And whether it’s pummelling the sand on a 45-degree day in the desert, or heading out for coffee in my local neighbourhood, electric vehicles (EVs) can also be a lot of fun.

I will always remember the first time I drove in an EV. It was around 2014, and I was rallying in the UK. The EV technology was still pretty new, but I had a friend who worked at Tesla, and he offered to take me for a spin. EVs have instant acceleration - you put your foot down and all the torque is there instantly. It goes! It blew me away the first time … and it’s still impressive when I get behind the wheel now.

That drive was this weird and incredible mix of high-performance and absolute stillness. We were driving around these backstreets and I just thought, no one knows we’re here. It was silent.

There’s a perception that without the noise, driving can’t be exciting, which couldn’t be more wrong. As a motorsport driver, I have a pretty good understanding of what makes for a great drive. That instant acceleration? That’s cool. It’s not a compromise on performance at all. Everyone who’s competed in an EV would say the same.

It’s the same if you’re using them as a daily drive. Even when you don’t need to go from 0-100 in 2.8 seconds (which you can in some models), an EV is very practical. They make a lot of sense, a quiet ride that’s easy to maintain and can be cheaper to run.

EVs were actually born out of motorsport. Way back in 1899, a Belgian racing driver named Camille Jenatzy was the first man to break the 100km/h land speed record - with an electric motor.

There’s a long history of EV performance that you might not even know about. Now, I’m lucky to get to experience it when I’m racing. I’d watched Extreme E closely since the launch of the series, and when they announced the drivers’ program in 2020, I got in touch and asked how I could be involved. I loved everything they were trying to do, being pioneers, trying new ways of doing things and combining the excitement of motorsport with sustainability and gender equality. Motorsport has always been a hotbed for future motoring tech and now we have the same potential for EVs.

It was an ambitious project, bringing in all these different elements and in some of the most remote locations on the planet, too.

As a motorsport driver, I have a pretty good understanding of what makes for a great drive. That instant acceleration? That’s cool. It’s not a compromise on performance at all. Everyone who’s competed in an EV would say the same.

I also love that it involves different people from so many disciplines of motorsport. I’m a rally driver, my teammate is from World Rallycross, and we’re racing for JBXE - Formula One legend Jenson Button’s team. It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to learn from those people, combine their experiences and work on something brand new.

What’s it like behind the wheel? It’s different! The first time I did a competitive lap in the car, it was in the middle of the desert, and it was this serene experience. Instead of hopping into a loud, intense car, it was still intense, but in a quieter way. A totally new sensory experience. Instead of hearing the revs of the engine, the shifts in the gearbox, I hear the pelting of sand and stones under the car.

The cues are all different, but just like jumping between two different types of rally cars, it’s something you adjust to pretty quickly. Most obviously, you have all the torque instantly - you put your foot down, and you’ve got all the power there. From a driving perspective, it’s awesome to have that to play with and utilise. The suspension and brakes are pretty much the same (we don’t use regeneration braking in Extreme E), but you don’t have the traditional transmission. Actually, the battery becomes a weight strategically placed in the car, to improve the centre of gravity, which is really important for balance and handling in motorsport.

Still, fundamentally, it’s got four wheels and a steering wheel, and you’re trying to drive it the best you possibly can. Rally means being in an environment that’s always changing. I have to adapt. Whatever rally we’re doing, whatever type of car, the grip, the elements - there’s no set formula. Every time you drive that road, it’s different. In the EV, we’re changing what we do, the surface changes, a new bump in the road. We’re always shifting on the fly.

Racing these cars has shown me what they can really do. In the beginning, EVs were seen as something we needed to do for sustainability. That’s still true, but there are so many performance advantages as well. We don’t have to pick one or the other.

They’re also super-connected and packed with incredible tech. Just like we use all our other smart devices to streamline day-to-day activities, I think this is how we will use EVs. There are options now that speak to your smart devices inside your house, so on a cold morning you can ask your hub to turn on the car’s heating so it’s warm when you go to work. Lots of EVs come with self-driving options, ways to integrate audio, and amazing new safety features.

There’s a creativity that exists because you’re already thinking outside the box. It flows on to everything else. Manufacturers start asking questions like, can we do it like this? Why has this always been done this way? They are always looking to the future to create more exciting and intuitive experiences.

There are opportunities to be playful with motoring again and still retain that emotional connection. And I can’t wait.

Find out more about whether an electric vehicle is right for you, and how Macquarie can help you make the switch.

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Originally produced content by Guardian Labs Australia to a brief agreed with and paid for by Macquarie Bank.

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