Jaguar introduces the E-Type Zero

Jaguar E-Type ZeroJaguar has this morning revealed plans to convert classic E-Types into battery-powered, fully-electric vehicles capable of driving around any future ban on petrol engines in the UK, Europe or the rest of the world. Jaguar describes the new prototype, called “E-Type Zero’ as an example of how to “future proof” classic car ownership, but it also demonstrates the company’s eagerness to keep the E-Type – maybe the world’s most famous non-Italian car – front of mind in a future that looks likely to be dominated by increasingly generic battery cars.

The Zero is more than just an E-Type body running on a toy car electric chassis, however. Rare for an electric car is the Zero’s front engined/rear drive layout, with power taken to the car’s original differential via a propshaft. Jaguar Classic says this ensures the electric-E drives just like its petrol-powered parent, among the fastest cars in the world at the time of its launch in 1968.

The battery pack sits exactly where the an original E-Type’s ‘XK’ engine would have sat and weighs a similar amount; the electric motor sits right behind it, where the original car’s gearbox was located. The whole package weighs 67kg less than the original and with the electric powertrain producing 220Kw – around 295 bhp – it’s capable of reaching 60mph in just 5.5secs. That’s a second quicker than a 1968 E-Type. Range is said to be 170miles on a single charge.

Jaguar has invested significantly in its Classic division in recent years, opening a spectacular £7 million “Works” HQ, which shares with sister company Land Rover Classic. The operation has quickly built a reputation for innovative work in the classic sector with its multi-million pound facsimile recreations – the “Legends Continued” range – of two of the most famous and valuable Jaguars yet, the Lightweight E and the XKSS, a car Steve McQueen loved so much he bought his own car back when he realised he couldn’t live without it.

More recently it has added another line, “Legends Reborn”, to its roster, offering perfectly restored E-Types and original Range Rovers – the latter for almost exactly the same price as the most expensive new Range Rover.

“Our plan is simply to breathe new life into original vehicles,” says Jaguar Classic director Tim Hannig. “In the same way we restore conventional-engine E-type Reborn cars, every part of this vehicle is replaced or renewed to ensure it looks and feels like it has driven off the original production line. E-type Zero features an electric powertrain that is seamlessly integrated into an E-type of 1968 specification.”

Well, almost. The only wrong note Hannig and his team seem to have hit is the interior. Given the redundancy of the traditional gearstick (electric cars don’t need gears) the requirement for a entirely different set of, inevitably digital gauges, the design team have opted to update the interior with sheets of carbon fibre which seems entirely to miss the point.

“It is a modern approach that supports the digital integration requirements of the electric powertrain into the E-type,” says Hannig. “Personally I think it is an exciting sign of the engineering innovation featuring in this special concept version of the world’s most beautiful car. But could it be evolved? Yes.”

Hannig is not yet revealing when and how the Zero will go into production, although does say it will most likely be in the form of transplants and not “new” E-Types, which Jaguar Classic does have the ability to build. He does point out however that the new electric powertrain so closely mirrors the dimensions of the original XK powertrain that it could fit into any old XK powered Jaguar built between 1949 and 1992, raising the possibility of zero-emissions “Morse” Jaguar MK IIs cruising among combustion-engine free spires of Oxford one day.

Jaguar is also on track to launch its first modern electric car next year – the £55,000 I-Pace, aimed squarely at Tesla and after a difficult first season in the all-electric Formula E series its two-car team is regrouping for the 2017/2018 championship that starts in Hong Kong this December. Watch out for how more brands explore electric avenues.

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