Electrically-powered cars have been around since the beginning of the 20th century but over the past 100 years, their popularity and development was minimal as the internal combustion engine became the dominant powertrain. Towards the end of the century, interest in electric powertrains was revived and gain impetus as governments and carmakers realised that more serious efforts had to be made to develop alternative powertrains that did not use petrol or diesel.

Initially, the electric vehicles (EVs) were conventional models powered by internal combustion engines (ICE) that were modified to be powered by electric motors. The approach was not ideal nor efficient since using electric motors offered benefits which could be exploited while there were other issues that had to be addressed which did not exist in the ICE vehicles.

Over the last decade, development of EVs has accelerated and a number of carmakers have come out with models which have been developed from the outset to use electric powertrains. This meant that they had architecture engineered to optimise performance, aerodynamics and interior space.

The all-new Jaguar I-PACE is such a model and it will very soon have its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show, with sales commencing thereafter. While all the design and development work has been done in the UK, the I-PACE will be built in in Austria as part of a manufacturing partnership with Magna Steyr. Prices start from £63,495 in the UK (equivalent to about RM345,000) but owners may also get government incentives and, with zero tailpipe emissions, may be eligible to benefit from lower road taxes, reduced tolls and even reduced congestion charges.

The I-PACE is the most advanced model from the British company that is almost 100 years old and is presently owned by India’s TATA Motors. Incorporating the attributes and values of the Jaguar brand, it delivers sustainable sportscar performance, next-generation artificial intelligence technology with 5-seat SUV practicality.

With a fully-charged state-of-the-art 90 kWh lithium-ion battery, the I-PACE can travel up to 480 kms, it is claimed. More importantly to those who will own it, recharging the battery pack from empty to 80% (which should give about 380 kms of range) can be done in 40 minutes using a rapid charger. Home charging with an AC wall box will achieve the same level of charge in just over 10 hours, which can be done overnight.

A suite of smart range-optimising technologies includes a battery pre-conditioning system. When plugged in, the I-PACE will automatically raise (or lower) the temperature of its battery to maximise range ahead of driving away.

Two Jaguar-designed electric motors – which feature driveshafts passing through the motors themselves for compactness – are placed at each axle, producing exceptional combined performance of 400 ps/696 Nm, with all-wheel-drive for optimum traction on all types of surfaces. The high torque density and high-energy efficiency characteristics of the motors launch the I-PACE from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds.

The bespoke EV aluminium architecture uses advanced riveting and bonding technology for a light, stiff body structure. Together with the structural battery pack, its torsional rigidity is said to be the highest of any Jaguar.

The battery is placed centrally between the two axles, and as low down as possible with a seal between the housing and the underfloor. This location enables perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a low centre of gravity. Together with the advanced double wishbone front and Integral Link rear axle with optional air suspension and configurable Adaptive Dynamics, this gives agile handling and good ride comfort.

The exterior design is something completely different for a Jaguar. Its design takes full advantage of the smart electric powertrain and maximises the potential of the packaging benefits it brings. The sleek, coupe-like silhouette was influenced by the Jaguar C-X75 supercar with a short, low bonnet, aero-enhanced roof design and curved rear screen.

This cab-forward design contrasts with its squared-off rear, which helps reduce the drag coefficient to just 0.29 Cd. To optimise the balance between cooling and aerodynamics, Active Vanes in the grille open when cooling is required, but close when not needed to redirect air through the integral bonnet scoop, smoothing airflow.

Inside, the layout optimises space for passengers while sophisticated materials and exceptional attention to detail identify this as a true Jaguar. While it is classed as a mid-sized SUV, the cab forward design and EV powertrain allows interior space to be comparable to large SUVs. With no transmission tunnel, there’s a useful 10.5-litre central storage compartment. In the rear, tablet and laptop stowage is found beneath the seats, while the rear luggage compartment offers 656-litre volume, expanding to 1,453-litres with the backrests folded flat.

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[Chips Yap]

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