Exclusive: We Asked Chris Harris About Electrification, Manual Transmissions, and the Future of the Supercar


Ferrari SF90 Stradale

Interesting Insights From the Top Gear Host

Season 27 of BBC America’s Top Gear just recently premiered. It’s genuinely the best season of the show since the departure of the show’s long-time talent. The new three hosts have good chemistry, and it makes for plenty of fun and some good laughs.

We had a chance to sit down and chat with Top Gear presenter Chris Harris before the season premiere. In addition to talking with him about the show, we also asked him some questions about the industry in general. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that Harris believes the industry is going through a major transition. 

Hybridization, Electrification and the Internal Combustion Engine

mclaren videos

 

One of the key things he pointed to was electrification. He said that he recently spent time in Morocco and didn’t believe it would have the infrastructure to support electric cars. He said many other places in the world will be the same way. “I think there’s a dichotomy between the developing world and the Western world,” he said.

As a part of that Harris said the internal combustion engine will likely live on, saying it “has much longer to live than people realize.” While Harris said gasoline engines will continue on, he’s not ruling out adding electrification to the ICE equation. “It will be hybridized,” he said. “It will be made more and more efficient. It’ll be made cleaner and cleaner, but I think it’s there for a while.”

That’s not to say that Harris is against electric cars. “The electric dream, which when it works well, is brilliant,” he said. “If you live in LA and you have a supercharger on your way to work and a charger at home there’s no way you would buy a petrol engine car. You’d have to be a flat earther, I think.”

However, he said that for rural communities, even in the developed world, electric cars largely don’t make much sense. “If you live in a rural community in the Midwest, and depending on how you live your life, you’re not going to buy an electric vehicle.” 

The Future of Supercars

Ferrari SF90 Stradale

We discussed many things during the course of our discussion. One of them was the Ferrari SF90 Stradale and other hybrid supercars. Chris didn’t seem to be overly optimistic about the car and some of the other supercars out there at the moment.

I think we’re going into an era of the supercars that won’t be viewed kindly in 20 years time because they’re at a transitional point in technology,” said Harris. He discussed the weight and complicated powertrains of the vehicles. Harris said he’d rather have a lower horsepower and lighter weight machine. “It’s contrary to how we all live,” he said. “Really you want to go a bit slower and have a bit more fun at lower speeds.” 

He also discussed concerns with the batteries in these hypercars. “What happens with these hybrid batteries in 15-year’s time? What’s the battery life like? I’m hearing horror stories of people fitting new batteries to their Ferrari’s or McLaren P1s,” he said. 

The Manual Transmission

manual transmission

 

I also asked Harris about his thoughts on the manual transmission. While the manual is quickly disappearing from many cars on earth, Harris thinks some automakers, like Aston Martin and Porsche, will continue to build cars with this option in them for some time. 

“I think the last petrol engine car that Porsche makes will have a manual gearbox in it,” Harris said. “People want them. There are enough people out there that want them.”

Harris said he’s all for keeping the manual in as many cars as possible. He discussed the super-fast supercars with paddle shifters and sounded a little annoyed that there were so many. “I’m over it,” he said. “I really am.” That’s not to say that he doesn’t still enjoy driving them, but he’d rather have a manual car for a fun car. “If I want to go driving I’ll have more fun in my 2CV.”