Car’s Same Role No Matter What Powertrain, JLR Designer

BEVs should not be seen as anything different from traditional cars just because they have a different powertrain.

That’s the message from former Jaguar design director Ian Callum MBE who has clearly become a zealot for BEVs having admitted swapping the sporting thrill of a Jaguar F-Type for the arguably more pedestrian ride of the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace. Speaking to TU-Automotive, Callum, who now heads up his own design consultancy, said: “Electric cars still do what all cars do. They still carry people, look good, get you places. Because they’re powered by electricity doesn’t change them that much. They’re still motor cars.”

He also defended EVs against criticism that they all drive the same, saying: “That’s nonsense. It’s like saying all cars drive the same because they have a wheel at each corner. An I-Pace drives differently from a Nissan Leaf because they’ve been designed and engineered differently.”

Most EV use a ‘skateboard platform’ placing the batteries under the floor to lower the center of gravity. According to Callum, this is not the only option but it may be the best option. He said: “We could place the batteries in a different plan view, so the occupants sit within the height of the battery. However, once you start dissipating the batteries within different areas, heights and sections, the cooling becomes more difficult because it’s key to have consistent battery temperature. With a skateboard, the batteries are all uniformly laid out on one level, so cooling them to an equal temperature is fairly straightforward.”

Another key feature of electric vehicles is the sheer amount of horsepower and torque they can generate. The Lotus Evija hypercar claims nearly 2,000bhp from four electric motors, while even standard family EVs deliver what power they have with a instantly accessible flat torque curve compared to similar ICE powered cars.

Consequently, Callum said we’ve become too fixated by the immediate power delivery and acceleration of EVs. “I think we’re slightly intoxicated by horsepower at the moment. In an EV, it’s easier to get the power onto the ground compared to a lot of internal combustion engines, so it might become a new standard of performance. Because 2,000bhp is available, someone’s going to do it. Is it something that we all need? No, it’s not. Imagine the benefits we are going to get in terms of range and packaging with a motor half that size that can get to 0-60 in 8 seconds.”

Callum designed Jaguar’s first fully electric vehicle, the I-Pace SUV, before stepping down. He initially owned one of these before swapping for an F-Type, which he also designed, having become frustrated with the charging infrastructure. “A year ago with the I-Pace, I’d drive down the motorway, pull into a services, and either the chargers wouldn’t give me a decent range, or they weren’t working, or there was a queue. It was, to say the least, pathetic.”

However, he thinks the situation has now changed. “I’m going back to my I-Pace. I’ve missed it! The infrastructure is much better than a year ago, because there are a lot more chargers around. What we really need are more 100kW chargers, so you can get the car fully charged in half an hour. 50kW is good for 128 miles or so but it’s not good enough for most people’s needs if they’re on a long journey. That said, I feel confident that I can drive an I-Pace further and longer than I could have 12 months ago.”

Thankfully, Callum isn’t the biggest fan of the current trend, converting iconic, rare cars to electric powertrains. “If people want electric classic Minis or Beetles to drive around town in, that’s absolutely fine. With rarer cars, in some ways that does puzzle me a little bit, because they’ve got so much character and history, then they change it so dramatically as to take a lot of that character away. Why not just go and buy another electric car?”

He doesn’t see the development of V8 or V10 engines continuing for that much longer owing to the market becoming ever smaller for these muscle cars. “Increasingly, ICE cars will be niche vehicles rather than everyday vehicles, especially for urban city travel. I think what we see today is perhaps the penultimate generation of the internal combustion engine.”

That said, he does see a future for smaller engines acting as range extenders in hybrids. “It’s possible some cars will have a battery and electric motor alongside a small ICE for range extending purposes. That may be inefficient because you’ll be carting an engine around and getting nothing out of it for most of the time but for legislative purposes it might make sense.”

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