Perfectly timed, and perfectly executed, the I-Pace could lead the EV charge.
It was during a casual conversation over dinner in early 2014 when Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralph Speth and Electrification Director, Dr. Wolfgang Ziebart, decided it was time to build an electric car. A combination of customer demand and regulatory requirements meant it was necessary to at least explore its potential. Soon after, a skunksworks of twenty were sent to Warwick University to start work on the carmaker's first EV, and now Jaguar is just a year away from launching the I-Pace.
Currently on display at the Auto Shanghai, the I-Pace was our primary focus when we sat down with Dr. Ziebart and Design Director, Ian Callum, at the China expo. While technically still a concept, the I-Pace is "very close" to being production ready. The Scottish car designer quantified that as "95 percent" and the German engineering guru as "99 percent." According to Callum, the production car will ride on 22-inch wheels (the concept rides on 23s) and there will be less exotic seats. "I have wanted to build seats like these for a while now, but the material needed for them to pass safety regulations has yet to be invented. Hopefully it will be by the time the second generation rolls around."
Aside from that, the I-Pace you see here in Photon Red is the one that will arrive in 2018. We asked whether any of the design elements of the EV would make it to other Jaguar models, electric or otherwise. "In order to maximize the interior space while minimizing the car's footprint, we built the smallest hood possible. We were limited only by crash-test standards that requires at least some distance between driver and front bumper. So the front end will stay unique to the I-Pace. However, the new squared-off back end is something I could see trickle down to future models."
Dr. Ziebart confirmed that Jaguar was currently working on all forms of electrification and that in terms of a technology trickle down revealed that "the upper end of the market will get plug-in hybrid variants, naturally." While many are quick to dub the I-Pace and its ilk as "Tesla fighters," Dr. Ziebart was quick to correct us. "This is a Tesla beater. Despite only starting our EV division a few years ago we have 80 years of car-building experience to lean on. The I-Pace has a level of sophistication that has surprised people." Most assumed that Jaguar would simply electrify the F-Pace when creating its first EV, and had no clue the British marque was secretly working on an EV.
The market is now ripe for EVs and the I-Pace couldn't have been better timed. "We have fleets from across the globe very interested in the I-Pace. EVs are crucial for fleet companies due to the low running costs." Innovative, stylish, performance-orientated, the I-Pace makes for a compelling argument, and not just for those interested in buying a fleet. "I spent a couple of days with the I-Pace," revealed Ian Callum. "I'd heard from people who told me that once they'd driven an EV, they didn't want to go back to their ICE-powered car. After driving the I-Pace, with the serenity that a silent powertrain provides and the confidence from the instant torque, I knew exactly what they were talking about."
Dr. Ziebart had one non-negotiable feature when creating the I-Pace."I look at new cars coming out with rear-seat entertainment and it already looks outdated. With the I-Pace I demanded that it would not have monitors or DVD players. All that children and adults riding in the back seat need is internet connection via a powerful in-car 4G hotspot." It's that forward-thinking approach that has helped Jaguar become the fastest-growing automotive brand in America, with cars like the XE, F-Pace and upcoming I-Pace all helping the Leaping Cat to reclaim its seat at the top table of luxury carmakers. And with the I-Pace, Jaguar could well have the most popular EV on its hands.