Ian Callum talks Jaguar I-Pace electric car design

Meet Jaguar‘s first all-electric proposition. The I-Pace, revealed in November as a conceptual study at the LA Auto Show, is one of the most important Jaguar cars to be released since the E-Type. It represents a big step for the marque too, for it is the company’s first pure battery-powered electric product. This isn’t just a design study either – Jaguar is promising a production electric I-Pace based closely on this car with all-wheel drive, 394bhp, four seconds to 62mph, a range of 220 miles and on our roads in 2018. I caught up with Jaguar’s director of design Ian Callum post show to find out more.

Jaguar I-Pace electric car concept unveiled at the LA Show It’s very exciting to see your vision for an all-electric Jaguar. Why the decision to kick start the Jaguar e-mobility family with a car based on the F-Pace SUV?

The F-Pace is our most successful car by a long way. Electric cars are still a relatively niche market therefore to capitalise on its success made sense. The SUV also offers less constraint, make-up wise, as we were able to use our ‘skateboard’ platform (the flat battery that sits between the axles with an electric motor at either end) allowing for a lot of design freedom.

The bespoke architecture and electric drive system really have allowed you to exploit every millimetre of this car for a cabin that can comfortably carry five people…

The concept is developed on a new architecture designed to optimise electric vehicle performance, aerodynamics and interior space. With an SUV you also have the natural height. So with the batteries sitting beneath and with no engine we could really maximise cabin space.

Jaguar I-Pace electric car conceptI suppose with the absence of a conventional engine, it didn’t make sense to design a long bonnet, as is the case with the more classic performance Jaguars.

I wanted to create a design which reflected this change in the mechanics of the car. This is what led to the sporty cab-forward profile rather than a car with a bonnet and an engine. The layout positions the driver further forward, increasing the space for second row occupants. This also allows the 530-litre luggage compartment volume without compromising the dramatic silhouette.

Is it also a nod to the futuristic 2010 C-X75 concept?

Yes. When we went for a cab-forward look, an exotic design I think, it immediately reminded us of the C-X75. So you could say the reference evolved in an organic way. I also believe that if you do this kind of Jaguar you have to be bold in the design. So here we also exaggerated the front wheel arch for a strong handsome front of car.

Jaguar I-Pace electric car conceptYou have kept the Jaguar grille design. Would you have considered a more distinctive, perhaps radical face to differentiate this as an electric car?

On the one hand my view was that the car is so different that you almost shouldn’t have to define it, yet at the same time it has to carry on the current Jaguar look. So yes we included the radiator grille. It is very important for Jaguar today to be recognisable as a brand and this can be done through the face. Our design needs to be consistent. That fact may change but at this stage it is very important to us.

Also a lot of people think electric cars don’t need cooling so they don’t need a front radiator whereas the battery does need cooling.

This being an eco-car, you must have had to work hard with the sculpture’s aerodynamics to reduce the drag coefficient figures to a remarkably low 0.29 from the F-Pace 0.34.

The biggest problem for us was at the rear where it needed to be very aerodynamic but this then meant it would look blunt and harsh. So we worked hard to refine it and make it more Jaguar, more elegant.

Jaguar I-Pace electric car conceptYou have used some novel sustainable material here such as carbon leather. We’ve spoken a great deal in the past about your enthusiasm for exploring new materials that can define luxury going forward. Do you see the I-Pace production car as an opportunity to explore further these ideas?

Yes absolutely. We will be looking at working with different types of material, with wool, silk, man-made leather, going forward on the production car. Probably not straight away, more so down the line. Saying that, we are aware that the UK and California will be our biggest markets and we will respond to these trends.

What are you most proud of with the design?

The silhouette is very different but not vulgar – it is a good balance of the unusual and elegance. Also I like the tail lamp graphic. It is an indication of our future design.

I saw that Jaguar has compared the importance of the I-Pace to the E-Type, a groundbreaking car for the marque. Do you see this car starting a family of unique Jaguar e-cars?

This will be our first-ever battery-powered electric vehicle and it opens a new chapter in our history. I believe electric cars are here for the next 100 years and will eventually replace the combustion engine. So yes.

Nargess Banks

Read my road trip in the latest Jaguar F-Pace in Forbes.

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