Today at Silverstone, I had a fascinating glimpse of the British motor industry’s future, in the form of a deeply impressive all-carbon, all-electric coupe called Delta E4. It was both moving and exciting.
The E4 has just been revealed by one of the UK’s new-wave of quick-thinking, quick-acting automotive consultancies, Delta Motorsport, who invited a bunch of hacks in for a first drive.
Delta’s two British principals, Nick Carpenter and Simon Dowson, spent three years dreaming up a “pet” low-carbon project, while working on other economy cars and motorsport projects. Then, starting in 2009, they took ‘way less than two years — and a paltry £750,000 of public money — to produce a run of five remarkably good-looking, capable and well finished little battery-powered E4 two-plus-twos. First of all they look great, because the styling was put in the hands of a design professional, but there’s much more to them than that. The car, financed by grants from the East Midlands Development Agency and the Technology Strategy Board, is rear-driven by a pair of Oxford YASA electric motors (made by another new young and thriving British company, based close to the Dreaming Spires as the name suggests). It is capable of a 0-60 mph sprint in 6.5 seconds. Top speed is 116 mph, the range is 140 miles and the kerb weight is an amazingly low 975 kg despite the fact that the 32kW/h battery pack weighs around 350kg.
The secrets of the low weight are a small road footprint, an all-carbon fibre chassis (made in a form that would allow production of more than 10,000 cars a year, at £60,000 to £70,000 a copy) and you can throw in sophisticated electronics and aerodynamics, that further improve the efficiency. I say “would allow” because Delta has done as much as it can with our £750k. It has practically run out. They will use what remains to run the cars for a year, gathering user info and refining them as they go. They will also use the time to look for more backing, perhaps for a well-financed partner to take the project to production. What makes this car special for me is seeing just how much has been achieved with so little money, and experiencing the car from behind the wheel. It is pretty, roomy, well-made, easy to drive, sporty, nippy (a 4x4 version with double the poke would be nippier) and about as far from the many lash-up prototypes I’ve seen in my life as it is possible to get. This, to me, is the epitome of a British future car, packed with high technology and good-sense engineering. It is made by the sort of people who will decide Britain’s industrial future. Simon Dowson and Nick Carpenter are blokes you’d be proud to cite as representatives of this country’s capabilities. They need £1.5 million for a next phase. Had I access to that kind of dosh, it would be my pleasure and pride to press a cheque into their hands.