Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) broke its electric vehicle silence last month with the unveiling of its first battery-powered concept car, the I-Pace SUV, which is scheduled for launch in 2018. The group has been so quiet about its EV strategy that it would be easy to think it had no plans to compete in the sector, at least not in the foreseeable future. However, in an interview published in Automotive News Europe on Tuesday, CEO Ralf Speth said: ‘We try not to talk about things just for the sake of talking. We want to have something to show. Now is the right time to show our idea. We have created the I-Pace from a clean sheet of paper, with a different package and a different design.’
Speth would, understandably, not be drawn on giving an outlook of the potential for pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Nevertheless, his response to the VDA view that EVs will capture 15-25% of the market by 2025, suggests he believes this to be ambitious, as Autovista Intelligence does. Speth’s comment was; ‘Maybe they have brighter teams who know everything better about the future. I can't predict the future so I can't say whether things will go in that direction.
Speth admitted that increasing consumer acceptance (especially among the young), not regulations, are driving the development of the EV market. He commented that; ‘The customer will decide what percentage of the vehicles in a carmaker's portfolio will be EVs. I am also sure that customer demand will increase as the recharging infrastructure develops.’
Aside from the development of the charging network itself, JLR’s foray into EV territory could prove to be a wise decision. New supercapacitor technology could further boost consumer acceptance by overcoming one other key hurdle of EV ownership - charging times. Where vehicle range is increasingly falling into line with the distance covered by petrol or diesel cars on a tank of fuel, fully recharging EV batteries currently takes between six and eight hours. This naturally makes EVs viable for consumers who have the facility to charge at home, at a workplace or, in the case of commuters, at a railway station car park.
However, according to a techworld.com article, research by the University of Surrey, Augmented Optics and the University of Bristol has 'unearthed materials with a potential capacity between 1,000 and 10,000 times greater than existing supercapacitors, which are the current common alternative to conventional batteries. The technology could power electric cars across similar distances to petrol vehicles, and recharge as quickly as it takes to fill up a petrol tank.’
Augmented Optics CEO Jim Heathcote said ‘We're talking about potentially getting into prototyped devices within a matter of months.’ If these new supercapacitors receive all the relevant approvals, it is not inconceivable that this next generation of batteries become available in time for the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace SUV. Given the greater weight of SUVs, they stand to benefit especially from this new battery technology and so Jaguar’s late EV foray could be, albeit coincidentally, very timely.
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