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Hennessey CEO tells us why they’re sticking with ICE vehicles

Hennessey won't build an "Antiseptic" EV

Hennessey Venom F5 V8 engine

Everywhere you look, manufacturers seem to be going electric. Some of the world’s fastest vehicles, like the Rimac Nivera, are BEVs, electric-only companies like Tesla’s vehicles are everywhere, and even the likes of Bugatti are embracing the hybrid. Not Hennessey, though; they’re the one company that’s sticking to tradition. There is no hybrid Hennessey, and a Hennessey EV isn’t on the horizon — instead, you’re getting some peak Americana under the hood.

Hennessey’s Venom F5, which may officially become the fastest production vehicle at some point in 2024, is something entirely unique. It is capable of pumping out 1,817 horsepower and does so without a single electric motor. Instead, all of that grunt comes courtesy of a big 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. It’s a thick slice of American tradition pumping out space-age levels of horsepower and torque. In itself, it’s an amazing technical achievement, even if it does drink gasoline at the pace Richard Burton drank scotch.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. Yes, not destroying the planet is pretty important. But it’s a tiny flag of rebellion in an increasingly electric world, and it isn’t really going to make that much of a difference. When all is said and done, there will likely be fewer than 100 Venom F5s in the world, Hennessey is predicting 99. On top of that, they aren’t exactly the kind of thing people use on a daily commute — Hennessey’s wildly affluent client base probably doesn’t have to be at an office building between 9 am and 5 pm every weekday for a start. To get the best out of it, you’ll need to use E85 fuel, which is one of the more environmentally friendly hydrocarbons.

Beyond everything else though, John Hennessey is sticking to ICE cars for at least one good reason. During an interview with The Manual, the Texas-based hypercar builder talked about why you’re unlikely to see an electric Hennessey on the road any time soon.

The customer is always right

Jon Hennessey standing in front of a Venom F5

Hennessey may be hoping to avoid the same pitfalls we’ve seen the likes of Dodge, Ford, and Harley Davidson stumble into. Fans of large motorcycles, pickup trucks, and muscle cars aren’t really the demographic that buys EVs. According to Hennessey, the company’s customer base consists of people that love internal combustion, and he’s more than happy to go against the grain to give them what they want.

Hennessey says: “It’s our wheelhouse, it’s something that we’ve been doing for 33 plus years. More importantly, that’s what our customers want. So if the world is going tp zig in one direction, we’re happy to zag in the opposite direction. And our clients and dealers have all told us they don’t want hybrids, they don’t want EVs.”

Even in cases where a customer does own an EV, cars like the F5 can offer something different. Hennessey’s flagship vehicle also offers something unique in an increasingly electrified world. The supercar manufacturer explained:

“Some of them do, we have clients that might own a Lotus Evija or a Pininfarina Battista, but the feedback we’re getting is they’re kind of novelties. They’re fast and they pull a tremendous amount of Gs but they lack the visceral experience.”

EVs can be a bit sterile

Venom F5 roadster revolution

“I’ve got one client that didn’t buy one of the EVs. I think he drove the Battista, and of course, it’s very fast. But he’s a doctor, and he referred to the car as being ‘antiseptic.’ It just lacks soul,” Hennessey explained.

That client may have a point. Anyone who has driven a high-end EV will likely have noticed the lack of sensory input. The feeling is very different to what ICE cars provide, it’s all a little more glidey than traditional driving. There’s a lack of sound and smell in some cases, too. The audio differences are something that manufacturers are well aware of, which is why pretty much all of them are experimenting with artificial noise. But that’s just not the same. With few exceptions, when you do get past the frightening acceleration and the punch of instant torque, there is a bit of an emptiness. Hennessey is aware of all of this, and he wants his company’s vehicles to offer the complete package in the foreseeable future. He explains”

“I think what’s important about the Venom F5 and the next car we’ll do after the F5 is that, being purely internal combustion still has all of the sensory inputs. All of the big things that give us that visceral feel. Not just the speed, but of automotive joy and excitement. The sound, the smell, the vibration, as well as the G-forces.”

Hennessey’s Venom F5 currently holds the lap record at COTA, and the hypercar is expected to pick up a few more accolades this year. The big one is the production car speed record, which will be attempted once a suitable venue has been found.

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