Jaguar’s E-type Zero. Photos by Ronan Glon, unless otherwise noted.
Beginning in 2040, Britain is poised to ban the sale of all new gasoline- and diesel-powered automobiles and vans. While the rules do not yet include classic cars, Jaguar Land Rover envisions a future where even internal-combustion collector cars are outlawed. In response, the brand has created the E-type Zero, a battery-powered version of the classic E-type roadster that remains remarkably true to the original in terms of performance and external appearance.
From a distance, it would be difficult to tell the E-type Zero apart from any other 1968 Series 1.5 E-type roadster, except for the absence of twin exhausts exiting the rear of the car. The new car’s headlamps, for example, resemble those originally fitted to the E-type, but LED bulbs are used to reduce draw and prolong battery power. Look closer, inside the car, and the absence of a gear shift is the first clue that something is amiss, along with the center console-mounted display and the thin-film transistor (TFT) instrumentation, which remains blank until the car is powered on.
To keep the electric E-type as close to the original as possible in terms of handling and performance, Jaguar opted to develop a lithium-ion battery pack very similar in size and shape to the E-type’s inline six-cylinder engine. The electric motor and reduction gear are positioned aft of the battery pack, and a custom driveshaft transmits power to a conventional differential. Overall weight savings is said to be in the neighborhood of 100 pounds, and Jaguar insists the car’s front-to-rear weight balance remains unaltered.
The 40 kWh battery pack is said to deliver a range of 270 kilometers (167 miles), and Jaguar insists this is a “real world” number, not a laboratory-derived optimum value. While a larger electric motor could have delivered even more spirited performance, the 220-kilowatt (roughly 295-horsepower) motor selected yields performance comparable, if slightly better, than the original 3.8-liter, 265-horsepower six. In 1968, the gasoline-powered Jaguar would have delivered a 0-60 mph run in roughly 7.0 seconds, while Jaguar claims the electric-powered roadster can make the trip from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.5 seconds.
Keeping power, weight, and balance comparable to the original allowed Jaguar to retain the E-type’s original structure, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes, preserving as much of the driving experience as possible (auditory cues excluded). The absence of a transmission (and presence of a rotary shift knob with only Reverse, Neutral, and Drive settings) will surely discourage some, but if the eventual choice is an electric E-type or no E-type at all, perhaps it isn’t a deal-breaker.
Tim Hannig, director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic, said of the project’s purpose,
Our aim with the E-type Zero is to future-proof classic car ownership. 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.
Today, the E-type Zero exists as a proof of concept, but it was also created to gauge customer reaction to an electric-powered classic car. Should a serious buyer arise, Jaguar projects a price of £300,000 (roughly $393,000 based upon current exchange rates), but this figure includes the full Reborn package of sourcing and restoring a suitable donor car prior to its battery-powered conversion.
Jaguar Land Rover is taking emission reduction seriously, further announcing that every model built after 2020, just two years away, will incorporate an “electrified” drivetrain, be it battery or hybrid power. Whether its customers are ready to accept such a bold change remains to be seen.
Gallery images below courtesy Jaguar Land Rover.