The Concept Zero is identical to the classic original except it uses a 295bhp electric motor
Steve Cropley Autocar
7 September 2017

An electric Jaguar E-Type called Concept Zero has been unveiled by Jaguar Land Rover Classic, the company’s fast-growing heritage division.

The Concept Zero is identical to the classic original except that its conventional XK engine has been replaced by a 295bhp electric motor and a battery big enough to give a 170-mile “real-world” range.

The new model, aptly dubbed Project Marmite in the early months of its 18-month gestation, is the brainchild of JLR Classic’s chief, Tim Hannig. 

An avowed old-car lover with his own classic collection, Hannig is quick to acknowledge that an electric E-Type won’t suit everyone and may outrage a few. But he has nevertheless coined the motto ‘We future history’ for JLR’s newest division, believing it must look to a time when big cities have zero-emissions zones, and to a new breed of buyers who desire classic motoring “without the oil leaks”. 

The Concept Zero’s saving grace from the purist’s point of view is that its electric conversion is designed to be reversible. Traditional mechanical parts will be retained so an owner can return a car to its original specification. Against the stopwatch, the Concept Zero is also near-standard, offering the same 150mph top speed claimed for the petrol original in 1961, plus a very similar 5.5sec 0-60mph time.

Beneath the long bonnet, the Concept Zero’s battery sits in the space formerly occupied by the E-Type’s famously heavy 3.8-litre six-cylinder iron-block engine, with the new drive motor (plus its single-speed reduction gearbox) in the space previously occupied by the four-speed gearbox. A modern Jaguar’s rotary controller dictates forward/reverse movement and no clutch is needed. The result of the work, remarkably, is a 46kg saving. 

The electric powertrain connects to the rear wheels via the original tailshaft and differential. The inverter and power electronics sit in the boot. If the Concept Zero takes off, these components will be redesigned to save space (and improve boot room) utilising ‘family’ components from the I-Pace and other forthcoming electric models, much as Jaguar spread the XK powertrain through its range 60 years ago. Having engineered this conversion for the E-Type, Hannig believes he has a set-up suitable for most Jaguar classics.  

JLR estimates the cost of a restored electric E-Type at “north of £300,000” but has already had positive responses from potential owners. Hannig will confirm production when a batch of prospective buyers has emerged, after which the car will be finessed to give it more commonality with the I-Pace. It’s an off-the-wall project, Hannig admits, but he also believes the day of the electric E-Type is coming.

Riding shotgun in the 'EV'-Type

With Concept Zero’s project manager Stewart Bramham at the wheel, we hardly went faster than 40mph on a closed, single-lane road on London’s outskirts. But on this brief ride, it was still possible to feel the strong off-the-mark torque and the accurate response of the electric motor, whose faraway whirring, overlaid by a gear whine, gave the whole thing the surreal sound of a jet engine. Surreal or not, this was still an E-Type: same low seating, same high sills, same long nose, same wind curling at you over the top of the screen. Not sure it would suit me but, after this episode, I can see it might be just right for others less obsessed with originality.

Comment: Heresy, nicely done

Should we give this hare-brained project space in a serious motoring magazine? The purist in me says no, but the rest of me is just as sure we should. 

JLR Classic is definitely pushing the envelope with this one: when the company got serious about building a heritage business a couple of years back, none of us imagined an electric E-Type would be in the frame. 

But the modern car world is changing with bewildering speed, driven by legislation. Punitive laws already cramp old-car owners’ style and will do it more. And soon. Here is a bold attempt to find a solution to an emerging classic car problem, and to appeal to new buyers along the way. We should let it breathe. 

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Comments
16

7 September 2017

Old cars are actually very well suited to electrification, as they tend to be quite lightweight to start with, and have less complex systems.  At the other end of the scale there are people electrifying 2CVs.  This works terrifically as very few engine driven ancillaries to reverse engineer.  Bring it on I say!

Cars are to be used.  This makes them more usable and useful, and a classic makes far more sense as an urban runaround than a long distance daily driver as the compromises on comfort and safety are much less critical in that context.

7 September 2017

I really should hate this but it's very interesting. You can go on tour in your classic with complete reliability. You could of course stick a modern engine into it and do the same. Both options completely ruin the originality but offer effociency and reliability into something that's never been accused of being either.

The more we learn about electric power the more interesting it becomes. Kids being born now will just accept electric cars without questioning in the same way they use phones and tablets instead of heavy desktop PC's that you had to find an actual room for in your house and run an extension cable to your phone line to get onto the internet.

7 September 2017

From what I can see from the photos, this 'conversion' is completely reversible, so the car could be returned to original specification without too much trouble.

If this technology means I can enjoy classics in 20-30 years time, then I'm all for it.  Its not really much different than people replacing the unreliable Stag V8 with the Rover/Buick unit all those years ago?

7 September 2017
speckyclay wrote:

If this technology means I can enjoy classics in 20-30 years time, then I'm all for it.  Its not really much different than people replacing the unreliable Stag V8 with the Rover/Buick unit all those years ago?

Well the Rover converted Stags are often the ones which have been broken for parts and no longer exist. There are far fewer on the road relatively than there were, and the few that remain are worth significantly less than those that still have the original engine.

It's highly unlikely it won't be possible to drive petrol engined classic cars in 20-30 years time, There are so many of them owned by a complete cross section of society to make it politically unwise to try to prevent it. They have almost no impact on pollution or emissions, due to low annual mileage.

7 September 2017

Just replace the rusty steel with carbon fibre and you have the perfect marriage of form and function.

7 September 2017

There are already companies specialising in classic to electric conversions. Zelectric and Electric Classic Cars are two which spring to mind. There was an article about ECCs '79 Porsche 911 Targa on Influx a while back. I think we will be seeing a lot more of this over the coming years.

7 September 2017

I love the idea and am definitely of the view that if we have to have electric vehicles, then we really ought to be able to have vehicles that have style as opposed to the horrid little utility boxes that car manufacturers seem to think we want.

7 September 2017

I love the idea and am definitely of the view that if we have to have electric vehicles, then we really ought to be able to have vehicles that have style as opposed to the horrid little utility boxes that car manufacturers seem to think we want.

7 September 2017

I love the idea and am definitely of the view that if we have to have electric vehicles, then we really ought to be able to have vehicles that have style as opposed to the horrid little utility boxes that car manufacturers seem to think we want.

7 September 2017

I love the idea and am definitely of the view that if we have to have electric vehicles, then we really ought to be able to have vehicles that have style as opposed to the horrid little utility boxes that car manufacturers seem to think we want.

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