At LA Auto Show, Jaguar Joins Electric Car World With I-PACE Electric SUV Concept, Promises Production By 2018

With Tesla Motors dominating the electric car market and the luxury car market, we’ve seen plenty of luxury and performance marques step up to the plate in recent years promising their own cars to take the Model S and Model X on head to head.

Unusually, Jaguar started its unveiling using Virtual Reality headset.

Unusually, Jaguar started its unveiling using Virtual Reality headset.

To date, those automakers have included Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. All have promised their own high-performance full-size long-range electric cars, complete with a full complement of onboard connected technology to ensure that their own vehicles match Tesla’s constantly-evolving offerings feature by feature.

Jaguar says its FormulaE experiences have influenced design.

Jaguar says its FormulaE experiences have influenced design.

Now we can add British automaker Jaguar Land Rover to that list with the unveiling of the Jaguar I-PACE concept electric SUV at the LA Auto Show, a car that it says previews a full production electric car that will join the Jaguar family in under two years’ time. Unveiled last night at a special event, the company first showcased the vehicle by giving attendees virtual reality headsets to explore the car inside and out, before displaying the vehicle in the real world.

Jaguar Land Rover has until recently remained highly skeptical of electric vehicles, preferring instead to continue using the V6 and V8 engines that have underpinned many of its most popular models for decades. But over the past five years or so we’ve seen a noticeable shift as electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid vehicle prototypes have quietly been developed by its engineering teams at its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, UK. We’ve even driven some of them for ourselves, including the Range Rover Range_e plug-in hybrid and Land Rover Electric Defender. And while neither were ever destined for production (a shame given how capable the Land Rover Electric Defender was) it showed that Jaguar Land Rover was beginning to take the plug-in world seriously.

The I-PACE Concept uses the same in-chassis component placement as the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X.

The I-PACE Concept uses the same in-chassis component placement as the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X.

Its entry into the 2016/17 FIA Formula E Race Series highlighted that even more, with the automaker promising that its experiences in the single-seat race series would shape the type of production cars it made.

The Jaguar I-PACE Concept is the first demonstration of that, with a claimed range of “over 500km” on the overly-optimistic NEDC test cycle, a sub 4-second 0-60 mph time, and dual-motor all-wheel drive technology that produces a total of just under 300 kilowatts of power and 516 pound-feet of torque.  While that translates to a real-world range of what we’re predicting as being 230 miles on the EPA test cycle — and its speed isn’t quite up to Tesla Model X territory —  this means that Jaguar’s I-PACE Concept does appear on paper at least to be targeting the right specifications to rival similar concept and promised production cars from Audi, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz.

Visually, the Jaguar I-PACE Concept EV bears more than a passing similarity to Jaguar’s recently-released F-PACE SUV, Jaguar’s first and only production SUV to date, although there are some noticeable differences designed to maximize cabin space and take advantage of the under-floor battery pack and small number of under-hood components.

The first is a longer wheelbase than would be usual for a mid-size crossover SUV, with a snub nose that’s certainly new for the Jaguar family. The tailgate too, isn’t the traditional boxy shape you’d expect from an SUV. Instead, there’s a tailgate hatch more reminiscent of a sporty hatchback than an SUV.

Integrating the vehicle’s main mechanical and electrical components into the chassis à la Tesla also makes for reasonably decent interior volume and load carrying capability. While it’s not perhaps quite as big as the Tesla Model S or Model X (the Jaguar I-PACE crossover is a full size smaller than either Tesl) Jaguar still manages to cram in 18.7 cubic feet of luggage space into its concept electric SUV, split between a generous rear trunk space and a smaller under-hood frunk space up front.

The I-PACE will launch some time in 2018.

The I-PACE will launch some time in 2018.

As for the battery pack? For the concept at least, Jaguar has used a 90 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion cell pack from LG Chem, complete with liquid cooling system to keep the battery pack at optimum operating temperature. It’s likely the same battery pack will be used for a production version of the car.

It’s biggest failing? That will be the CCS DC quick charging that the concept and production car will come with. Capable of charging at only 50 kilowatts rather than the 130 kilowatts of Tesla’s Supercharger system, that 90 kilowatt-hour battery pack takes 90 minutes to reach an 80-percent state of charge from empty at most CCS quick charging stations.

That factor will not only cause it to lose points against Tesla but also upcoming crossovers SUVS from Audi and Porsche — both of which are using a newly-developed, higher-power CCS charging system that can recharge to 80 percent full in just fifteen minutes.

Being a concept car, there are some unanswered questions that we hope Jaguar will address in the coming eighteen months or so. Top of the list is of course concerns over pricing, specifics over just which advanced vehicle technologies will be included at launch (some degree of autonomy will be essential to cross-shop against its rivals), and where exactly Jaguar will make the I-PACE available when it launches in 2018.

Do you like the look of Jaguar’s latest concept car? Will it be a worthy competitor in the electric car marketplace, or is it too little, too late?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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