Jaguar’s electric I-Pace has Tesla in its sights

New all-electric SUV will be on sale in 2018 claiming 500km range


It was hardly unexpected, its development and launch having been heavily trailed in recent months, but the unveiling of Jaguar’s all-electric I-Pace SUV, ahead of its public debut at the Los Angeles motor show, still seems a little (forgive the pun) shocking. Jaguar, not so long ago an economic basket case with former owner Ford desperately looking for a buyer, will not only have a 500km electric luxury car on sale, it will have it on sale ahead of rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

The I-Pace, in spite of the name, does not use the same platform and chassis as the recently-introduced, and highly successful, F-Pace SUV. Although its aluminium upper structure is based on the same engineering experience that went into the F-Pace, XF and XE, the I-Pace uses a newly-developed ‘skateboard’ chassis which incorporates a 90kWh battery stack and a 200hp electric motor integrated within each axle.

That gives the I-Pace 400hp, 700Nm of torque, a claimed 0-100kmh time of “around four seconds”, according to Jaguar, and a one-charge range of 500km. Those batteries, lithium-ion ones of course, are arranged in a new layout described as a ‘pouch’ battery. Jaguar claims that this configuration gives better cooling properties, allowing higher levels of performance over a longer period.

Charging times should be as brisk as the performance. Jaguar claims a two-hour full charge time from a standard public charger, and Jaguar says that it has “future-proofed” the charging system so that the I-Pace will be able to achieve faster charging times as higher-power charging points are rolled out.

While this model is a concept for now, the word is that the styling, much more ‘cab-forward’ than is traditional for a Jag, is very close to that of the final production car, which should allow Jaguar to better make use of the packaging and space advantages of the compact electric motors. “The cab-forward design and electric powertrain were fundamental to the way that we created the interior,” says Alister Whelan, Creative Director, Jaguar Interiors. “They have allowed us to create a spacious and comfortable cabin environment with numerous opportunities for innovative storage and passenger space.” That interior is minimalist for now, with a huge 12-inch main instrument display and and two touch-screens in the centre console eliminating all but the most essential physical buttons.

“People tell me they think the car is going to change,” he starts. “Well, as long as we’ve got eyes in our heads and sit the way we do in cars they’re not. What changes with a battery electric vehicle is the absence of mechanical machinery sitting in particular places. That’s the opportunity” said Ian Callum, Jaguar’s chief designer of the I-Pace’s styling. “Now, if you give a designer a natural proportion of a sports car, they will tend towards a mid-cabin. We like the idea that people are sitting between the wheels. The old-fashioned notion was of people sitting behind the wheels, as it was with a horse and carriage. Suddenly, cars took on a completely new proportion in designers’ eyes. Mid-cabin is now the default silhouette designers want.”

While the I-Pace will therefore be practical (Jaguar already points out that the concept has an entirely useable 530-litre boot, and that’s in spite of being more compact than the F-Pace on the outside) it will, says the company, also be fun to drive, claiming that the front double-wishbone and multi-link rear suspension should give handling similar to that of the F-Pace and that the I-Pace will be the first electric car specifically designed around the wishes of keen drivers. “It’s a true Jaguar,” said Mike Cross, Jag’s chief engineer of vehicle integrity and a legendary test driver and developer. “This will be the first electric vehicle developed for enthusiasts who love driving.” Not sure what Tesla might think of that statement . . .

Prices are not being specifically discussed for now, but indications are that they will be pegged around 10-15 per cent above an F-Pace, which would suggest an Irish price tag of around €80,000, depending on specification. That would make the I-Pace significantly cheaper than the Tesla Model X, although it will lack the seven-seat layout of that car. Jaguar looks as if it will have a one-to-two year on-sale advantage time over incoming all-electric SUV rivals from Audi and Mercedes too, while BMW is yet to commit to building such a car.

Jaguar also looks set to use the I-Pace’s ‘skateboard’ as the basis for an all-electric and plug-in hybrid replacement for the XJ luxury saloon, as the company reckons a conventional replacement would not sell strongly enough against the likes of the Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8.