Getting Connected: Electric Classic Cars?
My father always had a thing for classic Jaguars. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, Enzo Ferrari once called the Jaguar E-Type one the most beautiful car designs of all time. Austin Powers and dad would agree. When I was just a young kid, he purchased a used E-Type. It was one of the last E-Types that went on sale back in 1974, before the production run ended. By this time, the classic Jaguar straight-six had been replaced with a buttery smooth V12 that made a statement about luxury and class. However, do you know what a chore it was to keep four 10-year-old Zenith-Stromberg carburetors and their associated linkages working properly? Additionally, our example had an automatic transmission and air conditioning designed by Lucas (enough said). It was a beautiful vehicle – but tough for the average person to keep running, let alone, running right. Moreover, the smell of unburnt fuel and running rich would have dear old Mom screaming to get that smelly thing out of the garage. She would have preferred it live outside (or perhaps another time zone). But can you imagine the possibilities of having a classic car that could be bulletproof, reliable, and not smell?
Jaguar must have channeled my Mom to create an inventive skunkworks project of an E-Type with a full-electric powertrain. An electric powertrain developing 220kW has been specially designed for the E-type Zero. It features a lithium-ion battery pack that shares the same dimensions and similar weight to the original XK six-cylinder engine used in the E-type. The experts responsible for developing the electric powertrain have ensured it will be placed in precisely the same location as the XK engine. The electric motor (and reduction gear) lies just behind the battery pack, in the same location as the gearbox on the E-type. A new propshaft sends power to a carry-over differential and final drive. The total weight is about 100lbs (46kg) lower than the original E-type, once you jettison the iron engine block and fuel systems. According to Jaguar, using an electric powertrain with similar weight and dimensions to the outgoing gas-powered engine and transmission means the car’s structure, including suspension and brakes, has not changed. This simplifies the conversion and homologation. It drives, handles, rides and brakes like an original E-type; the front-rear weight distribution is unchanged. Tim Hannig, director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic, noted, “We have integrated the new electric powertrain into the existing E-type structure, which means a conventional engine could be reinstalled at any point. We think this is essential, as it ensures a period Jaguar remains authentic to its DNA. We could use this technology to transform any classic XK-engine Jaguar. The XK six-cylinder engine was made from 1949 until 1992, and was fitted to nearly all iconic Jaguar models of that period, including the E-type, XK120, Mk2 and XJ6. The new electric powertrain could conceivably be used in any of these vehicles.”
How about the performance? Well, it is faster than the original, but the older structure does not lend itself to Tesla-like blistering acceleration. After all, the Tesla was designed from the ground up with modern materials and safety features. However, the E-Type is no slouch. Zero-to-60 acceleration takes about 5.4 seconds. This is about one second quicker than the original Series 1 E-Type. “In order to seamlessly combine the new electric powertrain of the E-type Zero with the dynamic setup of the original E-type specification,” explained Hannig, “we have limited the vehicle’s power output. We believe this provides the optimum driving experience.”
According to Jaguar, The E-type Zero has a ‘real world’ range of 270km (about 170 miles), helped by the low weight and good aerodynamics. It relies on power from a 40kWh battery, which can be recharged from home overnight (typically in six to seven hours, depending on the power source). Which is perfect- long enough for a substantial day cruise with enough range to get back at night without range anxiety.
Hannig summed it up nicely: “E-type Zero combines the renowned E-type dynamic experience with enhanced performance through electrification. This unique combination creates a breathtaking driving sensation. Our aim with the E-type Zero is to future-proof classic car ownership. We’re looking forward to the reaction of our clients as we investigate bringing this concept to market.”
I am so excited for designs like this to hit the aftermarket. Who is more primed for an electric car ‘engine swap’ than our industry? We can couple to the latest infotainment technologies to give the car owner the ultimate experience - all of the beauty of a classic minus old internal-combustion pitfalls.