The new Ariel, whose official name is still to be revealed, is the spectacular result of a three-company co-operative project called Hipercar - an acronym for High-Performance Carbon Reduction - and backed by a £2 million grant from Innovate UK, the government technology agency.
The objective, now reached, was to design and deliver a credible mechanical package to the LCV show using pioneering technology from three small and ambitious British companies. Ariel developed the overall concept, including the body, chassis and suspension, Delta Motorsport worked on the battery, range extender and electronics, and Equipmake developed the electric motors, gearboxes and electronics.
“We want the project to be a poster boy for new technology,” said Saunders. “It’s risky, because the car is packed with new stuff that needs to be proven, but we want it to be seen as tomorrow’s supercar.
“The performance will be quite astonishing. Technology is moving so fast today that if you do anything, the length of development means you risk being left behind. But we decided that doing nothing was even worse, and we’ve minimised the risk by acting fast, and producing a design flexible enough for future development.
“Our mission is to be braver and quicker to react than bigger manufacturers. Enterprises like this project have the potential to build a virtuous circle. It’s good for us, good for our partners and really good for the country.”
The plan now is to progress P40 to a production-ready state, which will also bring Equipmake’s motors and Delta’s revolutionary turbine range extender to the point of production. As a result, P40 is cast in the vital role of test bed, technology demonstrator and first user of UK tech, rather than simply a £200,000-plus option for well-heeled lovers of high-performance cars.
The two-seater P40 is about the same size and height as a Lotus Evora but with far larger wheels, tyres and brakes to cope with its huge power and torque — the rear tyres are 325/30 Pirellis running on 21in wheels. The car sits a couple of inches higher than most mid-engined models mainly due to the 150mm-thick battery on its underside and in a central cockpit spine. The need for battery space also gives the P40 a slightly longer wheelbase than other pure two-seaters.
Here, comparisons with the Lotus stop. The P40’s body architecture is distinctly cab-rearward, mainly because the car doesn’t actually have an engine, so to a large extent its creators can put things where they like. The chassis is a folded aluminium sheet, riveted and bonded to form a monocoque tub. Extruded aluminium subframes bolt to the front and rear of the tub in order to carry the suspension and most of the mechanicals. The suspension is independent and all-new, with its race-bred double-unequal-length wishbones milled from billet. The brakes are AP Racing grooved and ventilated discs with six-piston calipers in front and four-pots behind.