Jaguar wants to become the British electric company

From racing to crossovers, Jag is juiced for EVs.

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Jaguar has been telegraphing its electric future for years, and this week we're beginning to see it come to fruition.

The company's Formula E race team officially launched September 8 with sponsorship, livery, and an interesting name for its racecar, the I-Type 1. It marks Jaguar's return to factory-supported racing and serves as a model for the company's future strategy.

"The Formula E championship will enable us to engineer and test our advanced technologies under extreme performance conditions," Nick Rogers, executive director of product engineering at Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement. "We will apply this vital knowledge as part of our real-world development."

Formula E competition starts October 9 as the all-electric racing series begins its third season. Panasonic signed on as the title sponsor of the team. Formula E is a natural move for Jag and allows the British company to remain true to its racing heritage while still looking toward. The company claims seven Le Mans titles, which is the fourth-most in history, even though it hasn't won one since 1990.

That's a great lineage, but Jaguar knows it's getting dusty. Launching a Formula E effort allows it to compete in a form of motorsports that should prove relevant to road-car technology. Jag is drawing on Williams Advanced Engineering (you might have heard of its F1 team) for the electric powertrain. Williams also helped with the development of Jaguar's C-X75 plug-in concept car.

Meanwhile, we also captured an F-Pace crossover silently testing this week in the Alps. Though it looks like a normal F-Pace, spy shooters report it was producing no engine noise, leading (or perhaps leaping) to the conclusion it's the rumored electric SUV Jaguar is working on. Likely, this prototype has a diesel engine as a range extender.

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Though the camouflaged F-Pace is great fodder for speculation, Jag's electric efforts are not a secret. Jaguar and Land Rover showed off three electric-vehicle demonstrators last year and the company is exploring everything from mild hybrids to full electric powertrains. JLR has filed paperwork to secure trademarks for I-Pace and E-Pace.

"JLR is definitely rushing headfirst into electrification," said Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis for research firm AutoPacific. "No longer content to be a second-tier luxury player, JLR is making certain it can go toe-to-toe with the luxury segment's best, knowing full well that offering technology leadership lends a lot of credibility in this part of the market."

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