Autocar's impression of how a future all-electric McLaren supercar might look
McLaren is working on a secret, battery-electric hypercar for its Ultimate Series — the most expensive and most focused of its model classes.
The project will help the firm decide whether the P1’s replacement, expected around 2023, will be a battery-only model or a hybrid like its predecessor.
The move is part of a six-year business plan, revealed in Geneva this week by McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt and dubbed Track22 because it reaches to 2022. Under the plan, McLaren Automotive will double its turnover, invest £1 billion (about 25% of its turnover) on R&D and launch 15 new models — both series and short-run cars — that will replace the entire existing car range on a five-year life cycle.
Around half of these new McLarens will be hybrids and at least one will be a “very special, very focused” Ultimate Series car, although it won’t be a direct a P1 replacement and will “not necessarily” join the million-pound bracket of the P1.
The plan calls for McLaren to continue to build exclusively mid-engined two-seat sports cars. There will be further development of the 3.8-litre V8 that, in various forms, has powered every McLaren since the 12C of 2013. But Flewitt revealed that there will be “an all-new engine architecture” introduced towards the end of the Track22 plan.
In the nearer term, McLaren will launch a Spider version of its just-unveiled 570GT next year. It also plans to follow the success of its 675LT (“perhaps our most successful car ever; it sold out in three weeks,” said Flewitt) by making ‘LT’ an official, track-focused sub-brand for special models. The Track22 plan’s bottom line, according to Flewitt, is that McLaren Automotive will remain “proudly and fiercely independent”.
Flewitt describes McLaren’s new all-electric hypercar as “a one-off prototype” intended to evaluate the benefits of a fully electric powertrain in an Ultimate Series car.
Flewitt said: “This mule will answer one big question about the P1’s replacement: whether it can be a pure battery-electric model. There seems little doubt that a car like that can be built, but we have to satisfy ourselves that it could have the focus, appeal and sheer driver like its predecessor. ourselves that it could have the engagement to match today’s 675LT. We have to know it could be an authentic McLaren.”
Flewitt believes an allelectric P1 replacement would have to offer performance equalling that of today’s car: a 200mph-plus top speed and a 0-100mph time of less than 6.0sec. “You could probably get close to 2.0sec dead for the 0-60mph time,” he said.
As well as the all-electric car’s design, with all the packaging challenges it would bring, Flewitt believes a decision to go all electric will depend on the development of a fast-charging infrastructure. The car probably wouldn’t use in-wheel motors but would probably have several motors and all-wheel drive. One big issue, Flewitt admits, would be the noise. “We know how well owners respond to the sound of our existing cars. We’d have to find an authentic way to match that in a new generation.”
McLaren must decide on the details of the hybrid powertrains it is planning, and their deployment over the next generation of models, relatively soon, product development boss Mark Vinnels has told Autocar.
The next-generation McLaren 650S will be conventionally propelled, this model too far along the development process to be engineered as a hybrid, but the Sports Series models that emerge from 2020 will very likely be hybrid.
Although that’s four years off, the characteristics of the battery packs, motors and their associated hardware will have a fundamental effect on the cars’ architecture, packaging, weight, aerodynamics, cooling and driving characteristics, said Vinnels.
For this reason they will need to be part-decided upon by the end of this year. At that point the company should know whether the drivetrain will be hybrid or plug-in hybrid.
Right now the company is shopping around for batteries, motors, charging systems (which could be on- or off-board) and more, and is in the process of testing them. “We have seen some beautiful motors that are small, and light,” he said.
For the pure EV model that the company is experimenting with as a potential P1 Ultimate Series successor the key issue, said Vinnels, “is battery energy density; can we get enough energy on board and dissipate it fast enough, and get the range?”. He added that the project is about “being bold. But we won’t do it if it doesn’t work”.
Additional reporting by Richard Bremner.