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Jaguar I-Pace concept previews all-electric SUV for 2018

  • Image Credit: Drew Phillips
It seemed that Tesla would stand alone for years with a battery-electric SUV. The Germans were coming, of course, but they appeared content to time their battery push until government regulations forced them there around 2020.

That's all changed. Jaguar is promising to turn its I-Pace concept SUV into a full-fledged production crossover SUV within two years. It's Jaguar's way of leaping from internal-combustion power, clean over the top of plug-in hybrids, straight to zero-emission battery-electric vehicles. It says a lot about Jaguar's focus that the second SUV in its production history will also be its first electric car. It debuts this week at the Los Angeles auto show.

The Indian-owned carmaker is promising the five-seat I-Pace will look, feel, handle, and perform like a proper Jaguar, too, with a 0-60-mph time of around four seconds. With 516 pound-feet of torque being pumped out of its two electric motors, the I-Pace has as much gristle as the pure-bred F-Type SVR sports car, and it has it from zero rpm. It's also promising the two motors will combine for 400 horsepower, too.

It won't need to compromise on range to get its performance, with Jaguar promising the I-Pace will stretch across to 220 miles of range from its 90-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It will also take two hours to charge on a 50-kW fast-charging DC station, or achieve 80 percent charging in 90 minutes, and Jaguar insists commuters who drive about 30 miles a day would only need charging once a week.

It won't be the last EV from Jaguar Land Rover, either, with its scalable modular architecture designed from scratch to spread across the corporate portfolio and to move down to smaller sedans and coupes or up to full-sized Range Rover contenders. The crossover SUV uses the alloy battery casing as an integral, stressed part of the I-Pace's chassis architecture, lowering the ride height and adding body rigidity.

After entering the all-electric Formula E championship this year, Jaguar says it designed and engineered the batteries and the electric motors in-house. "This is an uncompromised electric vehicle designed from a clean sheet of paper: we've developed a new architecture and selected only the best technology available," said Jaguar Land Rover's technical development leader, Wolfgang Ziebart. "The I-PACE concept fully exploits the potential EVs can offer in space utilization, driving pleasure, and performance."

(And it's worth remembering that Ziebart was moved sideways from his role as Jaguar's engineering director specifically to drag JLR into a BEV future.)

Jaguar diverges from automotive tradition by deleting the traditional engine-transmission connection and instead using a concentric single-speed layout to save space and lift the ground clearance. While the automatic I-Pace is a real-world two-pedal car, Jaguar says it can also be effectively used as a one-pedal car, even in city traffic. Its rate of lift-off or coasting regeneration is variable and can be cranked on so hard that the driver can effectively use a throttle lift-off instead of braking.

The lithium-ion battery uses 36 pouch cells, and Jaguar claims they deliver lower-than-usual internal resistance and "excellent future development potential for energy density," meaning it thinks it can wind up more range and grunt inside without changing the outside. The I-Pace also uses a two-mode liquid-cooling circuit. In typical weather conditions, the car cools the battery's liquid coolant via radiator air, but it also has an air-conditioner connection it can switch to if the weather gets properly hot. Its heat pump is also integrated into the car's climate-control system, designed to draw energy from outside air to heat the cabin rather than drawing current down from the battery.

"Electric vehicles are inevitable – Jaguar will make them desirable. Zero emission cars are here to stay and the I-PACE Concept is at the cutting edge of the electric vehicle revolution," Jaguar's vehicle line director Ian Hoban said. "As the charging infrastructure continues to develop globally – and with enough range to mean most people would only need to charge once a week – cars like the I-PACE Concept will make drivers appreciate that an EV can be rewarding and practical enough to drive every day."

The second-ever SUV from the pen of long-time Jaguar Scribbler-In-Chief Ian Callum, the I-Pace retains a conventionally large grille and still manages to slash its drag coefficient to just 0.29. "This isn't just a concept. It is a preview of a five-seat production car that will be on the road in 2018," Callum said. "This will be Jaguar's first-ever battery-powered electric vehicle and opens a new chapter in the history of our brand.

The car rides on a long 117.72-inch wheelbase, with the double-wishbone front end design lifted from the conventionally-powered F-Pace SUV and a five-link rear suspension system. It derives the management of its on- and off-road all-wheel drive setups from the F-Pace's software.

With no engine bay to bother it, the cab-forward design allows the 184.25-inch I-Pace to run with short overhangs, 18.71 cubic feet of luggage space at the rear and a Lamborghini-esque one cubic-foot luggage compartment in the car's nose.

It's permanently connected to the internet, and the interior features a 12-inch virtual cockpit display in front of the driver, a full-color head-up display, a 12-inch touchscreen monitor for the multimedia system, and a supplementary 5.5-inch display so multimedia and climate settings can be changed without impinging on the main screen's display.

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