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25th of September 2017

Automotive



Jaguar Embraces Its Electric Future by Resurrecting Its Past

Apologies to Elon, but the world has a new ruler when it comes to combining electric propulsion with beauty. Because this week, Jaguar Land Rover unveiled the E-type Zero, a battery-powered revival of the classic 1960s sports car that none other than Enzo Ferrari called the most beautiful car ever.

The sad news is that the car—which carries a 40-kWh battery pack, offers a range of 170 miles, and goes from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds—is just a concept, rendering those specs meaningless. Jag says it will “investigate bringing this concept to market,” but whatever it decides, it’s guilty of a bait and switch here.

For the automaker (and, ahem, the journalist), the shiver-inducing thought of an electric historical classic offers a tidy segue into news of Jaguar Land Rover’s future: The automaker also announced this week that by 2020, it will offer an electric or hybrid variant of every model it makes. The shift will start next year, when the Jaguar’s first fully electric SUV, the I-Pace, goes on sale.

Unlike Volvo, which revealed a similar electric plan in July, Jaguar Land Rover is just expanding its offerings—not phasing out gasoline- and diesel-powered cars. And like Volvo, the British outfit isn’t actually taking a bold or crazy risk on fledgling technology. It’s ensuring it has a place in the future.

“It seems almost inevitable,” says Karl Brauer, an auto industry analyst at Kelley Blue Book, that automakers like Jaguar Land Rover will offer many more electric and hybrid choices in the future. And it's important to note that Jaguar’s self-assigned prophecy covers fully electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and “mild hybrids,” which use batteries to supplement the engine—so it's not exactly aping Tesla. The cost of battery tech is steadily dropping, and Brauer compares hybridization to fuel injection. “It went from being an exotic form of tech to being cost-saving.” Before long, he predicts, “every car will have some level of hybridization.”

Meanwhile, governments around the world are ratcheting up both fuel efficiency standards (where hybrid tech helps) and requirements that automakers produce zero-emission vehicles. Even if the Trump Administration is looking to roll back rules in the US, regulators elsewhere, especially in Europe and Asia, have the clout to sway automakers. The UK and France plan to ban the sale of gas and diesel cars by 2040; Norway wants to do it in 2025. China has set electric car benchmarks so extreme, automakers complain they’re impossible to reach.

So it’s only logical for Jaguar Land Rover to ensure its customers don’t have to turn to a competitor like Tesla to buy a swanky car they’ll be allowed to drive in their home country. And the automaker’s wealthy clientele certainly help here. In the US, the average Jaguar sells for nearly $55,000, the average Land Rover for more than $70,000. If batteries—the main driver of costs in electric driving—raise the price of their sports car a few hundred or thousand dollars to the price, they probably won't worry. Especially if that sports car is a 21st century E-type.

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