Jaguar's Entry Signals Electric Vehicles Are Headed for the Mainstream

Taking on Tesla, the new Jaguar I-PACE is just the beginning of a flood of electric vehicle competitors coming to market.

When Tesla started selling its Model X crossover sport utility vehicle (CUV) at the end of 2015 it was the only game in town if you wanted a mid-sized, all-electric, luxury crossover. The key here is electric, because although the CUV segment has become one of the industry’s hottest sellers, Tesla has had the only electric CUV vehicle—until now.

Jaguar introduced its I-PACE mid-sized, electric crossover at the Geneva Motor Show in March of this year. The company plans to begin sales of the five-passenger CUV before the end of 2018, just ahead of similar electric sport-utility offerings that have been announced from companies like Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Hyundai.

The 2019 Jaguar I-PACE is just the first of a number of new electric vehicles that will compete with Tesla. (Source image: Jaguar North America)

Jaguar already has two crossover SUVs in its line-up: the performance-focused F-PACE and the compact E-PACE. While some companies might have been satisfied to simply add batteries and motors to electrify the existing F-PACE, Jaguar instead started with a clean sheet of paper for its all-new I-PACE electric vehicle. The Jaguar I-PACE is shorter, lower, and narrower than the F-PACE and sits on a longer wheelbase. Where the F-PACE has a gasoline or diesel engine under the hood, the I-PACE has twin electric motors, one at each axle and can thus have a lower hood line. Jaguar’s designers have taken advantage of the difference in packaging that an electric vehicle affords, moving the base of the windshield forward for better visibility and more interior space. Both the F-PACE and the I-PACE are constructed with lightweight aluminum monocoque structures.

The Jaguar I-PACE has front and rear electric motors to provide permanent four-wheel drive (Image source: Jaguar North America)

The electric drive system of the Jaguar I-PACE uses two permanent magnet synchronous motors, each rated at 197 horsepower for a total of 394 horsepower. The motors are located at the front and rear axles and each sends torque through a 9.04:1 ratio, single-speed, automatic transmission. Each motor produces a maximum of 256 lb-ft of torque (total 512 lb-ft) and both motors operate all the time to create permanent four-wheel drive. This is similar to Tesla’s model X—it also uses front and rear AC induction motors to provide permanent all-wheel drive, although some high-performance versions of the Model X are available with a rear motor that is more powerful than the front motor.

The battery system in the Jaguar I-PACE has 432 lithium ion pouch cells using a Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt battery chemistry. The pack is located under the floor of the I-PACE and weighs 1,329 pounds. Liquid-cooled, the pack produces 388 volts and has a total capacity of 90 kilowatt-hours. Jaguar claims that its new electric can travel up to 240 miles on a charge and that charging to 80% capacity will take 10.1 hours with a 7 kW charger, and 85 minutes to charge to 80% when using a 50 kW charging system. Jaguar told Design News that the battery partner it is working with is currently confidential, but industry rumors would indicate that it is one of the major electric vehicle battery suppliers.

The battery system for the I-PACE is beneath the vehicle floor and consists of 432 lithium ion pouch cells (Image source: Jaguar Land Rover Limited)

Tesla, by contrast uses a completely different battery configuration for its Model X. Instead of pouch cells, Tesla uses cylindrical 18650 cells it developed with Panasonic and using Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum (NCA) chemistry. The basic 75 kWh pack has 5,917 cells while the optional 100 kWh pack has 8,256 individual cells. 

Jaguar claims a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 4.5 seconds and backs that up with a video that compares head-to-head acceleration tests between the I-PACE and the Tesla Model X. “The Jaguar I-PACE as a $70,000 midsize battery electric SUV does not yet have any other exact specification competitors, though we know that a wave of other battery electric vehicles will be coming to market soon,” Stuart Schorr, Vice President Communications and Public Affairs for Jaguar North America told Design News.  “While the Tesla X is a larger, more expensive battery electric SUV, it still made an excellent reference point for consumers to get a feel for the I-PACE performance credentials,” said Schorr.

Tesla has achieved an Internet reputation for building very fast electric vehicles, so the comparison seems natural. Stephanie Brinley, Principle Analyst at IHS Markit told Design News, “Jaguar is a small luxury brand—to be a little off-center is terrific. If they can align themselves with someone charismatic like Tesla, it isn’t bad!” How does Tesla feel about being the object of Jaguar’s comparison tests? “Tesla says as long as they can drive the BEV (battery electric vehicle) market as a whole, they don’t worry about competition. Tesla doesn’t care that someone is coming to play in their backyard, because someone is coming to play in their yard,” said Brinley. Tesla had not responded to Design News at the time this story was written.

The pricing for the Jaguar I-PACE, with a base MSRP of $69,500 is competitive with the Tesla Model X. With the battery electric market around 1% of total U.S. sales, it’s hard to see how Jaguar plans to sell large numbers of its I-PACE, but the importance of the vehicle goes beyond its sales number. “Playing in the BEV space is a credit to the brand. Even if the demand isn’t high, it helps promote your brand,” according IHS analyst Brinley.

Soon, it won’t just be Jaguar that will be entering the battery electric market. “Tesla is going to have some serious competition. Jaguar is just the first—everybody is coming to play in the Tesla world. And they can brings names like Audi and Porsche and Mercedes-Benz that are more trusted and have solid sales and service organizations. They bring more robust reputations,” according to Brinley.

That can only be an advantage when it comes to building a bigger EV market. Said Brinley, “In order to get battery electrics into the mainstream, it has to be a mainstream brand.”

 

Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.

 

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