Thomson noted the packing of an EV would offer increased cabin space, but said that also presented challenges to designers.
He added: “We’re learning how to do the aesthetic. They’re heavier, need more structures for crash. The mass means you have normal building blocks in different places. These are things we’re learning.
“We feel we’ve had an advantage with I-Pace. We’ve learned a lot from it, not just with the technology but what we can do with space. EVs are serene and have a sense of calm, more of a spiritual quality. It’s as close as you can get to doing yoga in a car. We’ll bring that into XJ, bring a sense of cabin ambience that’s calm and refreshing.”
The firm recently confirmed that the XJ will be relaunched next year as an electric model and will be built at its Castle Bromwich plant. Jaguar announced the news on the day that production of the current XJ ends at the factory.
The electric XJ will be the first electric model produced at the plant, but Jaguar Land Rover said it plans to manufacture “a range of new electrified vehicles” at the facility.
JLR’s current electrified models, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrids, are built at its Solihull plant, while the electric Jaguar I-Pace is produced by contract manufacturer Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.
Autocar first reported that the next-generation XJ would go electric in 2015, but this is the first time that the Coventry-based firm has confirmed the bold move for its largest saloon.
It said the new XJ will “build on the characteristics synonymous with its predecessors: beautiful design, intelligent performance and revered luxury”, adding that it will be built by the same “expert team of designers and product development specialists responsible for delivering” the I-Pace.
Today’s announcement builds on JLR’s plan, confirmed earlier this year, to bring its battery and Electric Drive Unit assembly to the Midlands. The Battery Assembly Centre at Hams Hall, opening in 2020, will be capable of producing 150,000 units annually, while the Wolverhampton Engine Manufacturing Centre (EMC) is the home of JLR’s global EDU production.
JLR, which announced 4500 job losses earlier this year, said the news “safeguards several thousand jobs in the UK”.
Work on Castle Bromwich will begin later this month in order to allow it to support JLR’s next-generation Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA), which can house diesel and petrol vehicles alongside electric and hybrid models.
JLR chief executive Ralf Speth said: “The future of mobility is electric and, as a visionary British company, we are committed to making our next generation of zero-emissions vehicles in the UK.
“We are co-locating our electric vehicle manufacture, Electronic Drive Units and battery assembly to create a powerhouse of electrification in the Midlands.”
Speth, when asked about the scale of the investment, commented: "When you get into new architectures like we have, you're into the billions, spread over years to come."
JLR said that while the expansion of its electrified line-up will see customers offered a greater choice, “increased consumer take-up remains a challenge”.