IF MOTORISTS have one common grumble about electric cars, it’s that they seem to have had a personality bypass. Now Jaguar has an answer: take one of the world’s most desirable classic sports cars and fit it with an electric powertrain.
The British car maker took the wraps off the E-type Zero in London today. At first glance, the streamlined roadster appears no different from the model that Enzo Ferrari declared “the most beautiful car in the world”. But lift the long, bulging bonnet and you won’t find a straight six or V12 petrol engine; instead you’ll be met with a lithium ion battery and an electric motor.
Some classic car buffs will no doubt be outraged by the thought of taking a potent symbol of the Swinging Sixties and rebuilding it with 21st-century technology. But specialist independent car tuners such as Singer (which reworks the Porsche 911) and Eagle (which remodels the E-type) have proved there’s a demand for custom remakes of classic motors. In fact drivers are apparently willing to pay as much as £800,000 for them.
Electric conversions of classic cars are surging in popularity, ensuring that zero-emissions versions of models such as the E-type will continue to turn heads long after the governments in Britain and France ban new petrol and diesel cars from sale, in 2040. Companies such as Zelectric Motors and EV Wilderness take worn-out classic models and fit electric innards, breathing new life into unloved shells. EV Wilderness says it has sold more than 2,000 retrofitted electric cars and DIY conversion kits over the past decade.
The E-type Zero prototype is an official factory project, based on a restored 1968 E-type roadster. The engineers say that by putting the battery and motor where the petrol engine once was, they have ensured the Zero handles much like the original.
“We have integrated the new electric powertrain into the existing E-type structure, which means a conventional engine could be reinstalled at any point,” said Tim Hannig, the director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic.
With a 220kW (295bhp) motor driving the back wheels, the Zero accelerates from standstill to 60mph in 5.5 seconds. Perhaps more importantly, its 40kWh battery gives a driving range of up to 170 miles, and recharging takes no more than seven hours.
The E-type’s original dashboard has been modernised and fitted with digital instruments that deliver the sort of information about efficiency, range and nearby charging points that drivers of electric cars depend on.
The car is on display this weekend in the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Fest, at Central Saint Martins university in London, September 8-10. JLR recently staked its future on greener technology, announcing that every new car it launches from 2020 will be “electrified” — that is, either hybrid or pure electric.