F-Pace crossover is tipped to be sold in Tesla-rivalling all-electric guise
Jaguar Land Rover will step up its development of ultra-low-emission technologies by doubling the size of its engineering and design centre in Whitley, Coventry, a move which paves the way for all-electric versions of its models to launch.
The Whitley site is the base for advanced powertrain engineering, advanced engineering teams for both Jaguar and Land Rover brands, the Jaguar design and advanced design departments, and the firm’s global headquarters.
The site will grow from 55 to 110 acres, the expansion being equivalent to around 30 football pitches. JLR says the expansion is down to a ramp-up in development of “ultra-low-emission technologies”. However, the expanded site will not result in 4000 new jobs, as reported by the Coventry Telegraph previously.
The firm is understood to be doing extensive R&D working on future electric and hybrid drivetrains, with the first models expected to be all-electric versions of the Jaguar XE saloon and F-Pace crossover with ranges of around 300 miles, according to well-placed industry sources.
JLR has experience with electric transmissions through its development of the cancelled CX-75 supercar project, which was engineered in conjunction with Williams Advanced Engineering in Oxfordshire. The two companies' ongoing collaboration includes the building of the C-X75 supercars that will be used in the filming of the new James Bond movie, Spectre.
There are two reasons for the move to a pure electric powertrain, the most important of which is new Zero Emission Vehicle legislation introduced to California and adopted by another seven US states.
These laws demand that, between 2018 and 2025, the number of new ZEVs sold rises from 5% of all new cars to 15.4%.
Secondly, analysts expect rising demand for electric luxury vehicles as more global cities start to introduce ‘zero emission zones’ of the type proposed for central London. Tesla has also proved that there is a rising global market for an upmarket all-electric vehicle.
With SUVs and crossovers dominating the US new-car market, and Tesla’s long-awaited Model X SUV on the way, an electric F-Pace makes good sense.
It seems there’s also a good chance that Range Rover will offer an all-electric SUV using the same technology as the Jaguar's. Last year Autocar revealed that Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern was considering a new line of Range Rover models that could be “incredibly luxurious and low-slung”.
It’s thought that this potential new model could be based on the same basic aluminium architecture as that of the F-Pace, but with a greater emphasis placed on opulence in place of the F-Pace's focus on dynamic performance.
Building the EV across two brands will also help reduce per-unit costs and the pricing potential for a super-luxury electric Range Rover must be tempting to JLR planners.
The unexpected success of Tesla - an example of a very rare breakthrough into the automotive market from a start-up company - proved what trend spotters had suspected for some time.
It is the world’s most affluent consumers who are most enthusiastic about ‘green’ technology. And considering the cost of building an electric car with a near-300 mile range, it is only the most affluent that can afford it.
Moreover, vehicles driven by electric motors are inherently smooth, refined and swift, which gives them a decisive advantage over conventional luxury cars that use internal combustion engines.
Tesla sold around 32,000 vehicles in 2014, with the biggest market being the US. That’s only a pinprick in the global car market, but the new legislation in the US should help change that and this niche market will expand as more mainstream makers get involved.
California has led the way on pollution reduction since the famous 1974 model-year ‘smog’ regulations. One of the most important markets in the US, it had originally wanted around 4% of new cars by 2025 to be either ‘Zero emission’ (battery powered) or Plug-in Hybrids.
The modest aim was dramatically upgraded so that, by 2025, some 15.4 per cent of new cars – or around 230,000 units in California – would be half ZEVs and half plug-in hybrids.
Such a demand would have been important enough to Jaguar Land Rover on its own. However, a total of eight US states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregan, Rhode Island and Vermont) signed up for the California proposals.
These are states on the east and western seaboards of the US and are among the most affluent. The combined efforts of the eight should see 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on the roads of the US in 10 years, especially as the states themselves are committed to massively expanding the charging network.
The rules and regulations around which carmakers have to build ZEVs are immensely complex, but as JLR sells more and more cars in the US, thanks to changes in the legislation, it is likely to be ranked as a ‘large volume manufacturer’ before the end of the decade. This means it will be required to sell ZEVs in California and the other seven supporting states.
Indeed, it seems that JLR might have to have a battery-powered car on offer for the 2108 model year. And the more ZEV models JLR sells, the more ‘credits’ (another complex part of the legislation) it can offset against the sale of conventionally engined models.
Investing in electric SUVs and Crossovers is not just for the future US market. China’s government is also pushing for more of what it calls ‘New Energy [electric] vehicles’, which, again, are most likely to be afforded by the most affluent drivers.
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