Just as the loving embrace of Tories with Ukip combine to pull us out of European co-operation and friendship, Jaguar Cars announce their first all-electric vehicle, an into-the-21st-century SUV, a belated but significant revolution for British built cars. More of that vehicle later in the essay.
It is yet another ironic loss for the UK. The first electric vehicle was created by Ferdinand Porsche way back in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century electric cars were the favourite for city travel, travel on longer distances taken by only a few. When cars got an electric starter electric sales were overtaken by petrol cars which offered longer journeys, but back in the day they, like electric cars now, required a refilling infrastructure to spring up across the country. Manufacturers stopped investing in electric development. Today, output from Lithium ion batteries is vastly superior to anything previous.
We have been very slow to accept the introduction of electric vehicles, some compulsive petrolheads railing aggressively against them, the flaky expert popping up on social sites with quick fire statistics paid by phony think tanks to spread anti-clean emission propaganda.
The EU is making a massive push to implement an infrastructure for electric vehicles. Norway got there five years ago, the Netherlands follows suit, diesel vehicles phased out by 2025. California is putting a charging point almost wherever a car parks. Every new or refurbished house in Europe will need to be equipped with an electric vehicle recharging point, under a draft EU directive expected to come into effect by 2019. In a further boost to prospects for the electric car market in Europe, the regulations state that by 2023, 10% of parking spaces in new buildings in the EU zone will also need recharging facilities. I shall have mine in my garage soon as built.
As well as extending the driving range and convenience of electric cars the mushrooming number of recharge stations will allow vehicles to feed their electricity back into the grid.
The EU moves are designed to help cut roadside emissions, however, internet neo-con automotive trolls will have their say a bit longer knowing extra power stations have to be built to accommodate too many electric cars appearing too soon – if that actually happens.
Increases in electric vehicles is predicted to account for 80% of cars by mid-century. Expect false alarms bells rung continuously for some time to come as petrolheads dig in their heels and scream blue murder, while the rest of us get on with an orderly transition from petrol and diesel to a mixture of hybrid and full electric.
A higher amount of electric vehicles will need additional power to be generated. The French carmaker Renault said that it accepts that electricity supply problems could emerge as the vehicles’ market share increases exponentially, although it sees a solution.
“We could make a huge investment to green our electricity, but we think the future will be built around local storage with a second life battery.” Vehicle batteries that have worn down still contain energy which can be topped up with energy from on-site wind and solar power generators and sold back to the grid at peak times.
Jaguar I-Pace technology
The Jaguar I-Pace has been the sensation of the Los Angeles Auto Show. Admiring crowds surrounding it are told very little will change on the production model.
Scotland ought to be in the vanguard of electric infrastructure. Try to imagine a car that does not need to visit a gas station, and wants only a once a year basic check because its moving parts are wheels, axles, steering wheel and column, and door hinges.
In innovative terms it isn’t massively new, but it is not like any other Jaguar in any way except its use of aluminium. In that it appears to get everything right, and in the right place, so to speak. The longer it takes to get into production – orders taken now – the greater battery life is predicted. There is strong rumour of a breakthrough in battery technology that will make electric cars the first choice over fossil fuelled cars. The likelihood is that recharging will be down to minutes for a full battery reload.
What it announces is a tectonic shift in automotive thinking. We can expect a whole lot of other models to go electric, small and cheaper models too.
As the photograph below illustrates, the flat battery pack is under driver and passenger’s feet, offering an excellent low centre of gravity for fast cornering. The design is informally known as the skateboard.
Power is stored in a 90kWh lithium ion battery pack. The battery uses 36 pouch cells selected for their energy density and thermal performance. They operate at a lower heat, so they can run at a high performance for longer than cylindrical cells.
A range of over 300 miles, plus a single boost giving 80% recharge in 90 minutes puts the I-Pace in the forefront of practical cars worth buying. Batteries are packed in an aluminium ‘sandwich’, an integral part of the vehicle’s structure.
In addition to negligible running and servicing costs, everything above the chassis is usable space. There is no need for a transmission tunnel splitting seats front and back. The cabin is pushed forward to offer more interior space, while also offering better visibility to the driver.
For the boy racer, (unlikely to buy an SUV) and the driver concerned he has enough over-taking speed available in emergencies, horse power is a claimed 395 bhp, enough to sling-shot the I-Space from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds, without a gear shift – unbroken linear power.
Normally, you’d fork out over £120,000 for a supercar for that acceleration, and change the tyres every 2,000 miles at £3,000 a corner. That is, if you require a supercar to express your lack of personality. Or you can buy a British Arial Atom for £35,000 with one seat and no weather protection.
There are two 200hp motors on each axle. Permanent magnet motors were chosen in preference to the induction motors used by the likes of Tesla Cars (already on sale in Edinburgh) because the efficiency is fractionally better and the weight is lower. The motors provide the SUV a combined power of 400 horsepower and 700Nm of torque.
Jaguar is already accepting reservations for the SUV online, and company officials claim a production variant of the Jaguar I-Pace will be showcased at an auto show next year. Jaguar has future-proofed the electrical architecture to accept higher-capacity charging than 50kW DC when such charging points become commonplace. The charging socket is situated in the car’s front wing.
To reduce drag, the door handles sit flush with the body surface and slide out when activated, and side skirts channel air more efficiently around the wheels. A lowset bonnet features a grille that bends back to channel air through a scoop helping to reduce drag further. The drag coefficient is 0.29. The interior sports blue illuminated dials and controls – a Jaguar heritage – as well as ambient lighting around the doors, and a pleasing simplicity to the interior architecture. I hope cleaning under seats, and retrieving those dropped keys and coins will be easy.
The dramatically sloping rear window has a hydrophobic glass coating that sheds water, negating the need for a rear windscreen wiper. The full-length panoramic glass roof features a lozenge-patterned ceramic print that becomes illuminated at night via an array of LED lights embedded in it.
How much is the future?
The SUV will be expensive by any standard – expect a hefty £50,000, less when the three-door variant gets on stream. Then again, with minimal servicing costs, and less than a halfpenny a mile running costs, no petrol to buy, nor subjected to the vagaries of the oil market, things begin to balance out. I estimate my standard Toyota SUV costs an average of £3,500 a year, that’s for servicing, replacing worn parts such as brake pads and tyres, insurance, road tax, petrol, and of course, cleaning. And I don’t do a great deal of mileage. It doesn’t include depreciation which adds another £1,500 plus to those ownership costs.
In fact, when you think about it, the I-Pace is probably a vehicle you can own and run for twenty years or more with only a change of batteries every decade. That has to be good for depreciation costs, and the environment.