Jaguar setting the ‘I-Pace’ in electric cars

HUMAN curiosity and endeavour have built advanced, materially wealthy societies and have extended lifespans. But they have also brought us to the brink of catastrophe.

Our inability to realise that our activities are not great for the planet is becoming tiresome.

And, when you get big business trying to persuade you it’s raining, while casually piddling over your shoulder — VW being a case in point — it causes ripples.

Big ripples in the case of the car industry, which is usually able to kick governments around because of its over-sized weight in tax income. That changed when the Germans got caught.

Keen-eyed types quickly got on the ‘no-emission’ green bandwagon. Trouble was the green vote was too naïve and fickle to grasp the nettle fully and was subsumed by Toyota Prius drivers claiming to save our precious globe.

The corporates won again with a solution that not only compounded the original problem, but made us swallow a big lie: That lie is that hybrid engine technology will save the planet.

It will certainly not, but the hastened evolution in electric motivation (which is not the answer either, given that electricity is largely made by burning carbon fuels) is a better choice than most. The ecological test now is to provide the zero-emission car: the saviour of the planet.

The milkman where I grew up drove an electric float. It had a dozen heavy batteries under its belly and wheezed around the neighbourhood, clinking dairy deliveries.

Its range of six miles needed 20 hours of charging.

When I was growing up, electric cars — mostly milk floats — weren’t intended to save the planet, largely because we didn’t know the planet would need saving. Thus, as an older guy, I am amused by the slew of carmakers whose grandiose claims about their electric cars would lead you to think they’d re-invented the wheel.

The thing is that a ‘zero-emission’ Zoe/Leaf/i3/Ioniq, or whatever, is of limited value to a driver. Those limitations are expressed in one word: range.

None of the first wave of electric cars has any worthwhile range, so unless you’re a city dweller with a commute of less than 20km, these things are all but useless.

But we are now into a second wave of electric cars and the battery technology is coming on apace, or I-Pace. This week’s tester is the Jaguar I-Pace, the all-electric version from the Indian-owned company of the excellent F-Pace SUV.

It is in the vanguard of this second coming of rechargeable cars, along with such as the Audi e-Tron and the Hyundai Kona/Kia e-Nero, and these will actually get you somewhere.

The I-Pace, along with the others, has greatly modified and updated, high-capacity battery technology. In the case of the Jag, this involves a 90kWh power source (the equivalent of 400 bhp) under the belly of the car.

According to the manufacturer, based on the worldwide harmonised light vehicle testing procedure (WLTP), it has 480km of range.

This is as close to real-world driving as could be asked for from the system, although the real-world capability of the car is actually in the region of 300-340km, as was evidenced in our test. But that figure is still not bad, by comparison with what went before.

That you could actually contemplate a Cork-Dublin, or Dublin-Galway, or even a Sligo-Tralee trip without having to stop to replenish the batteries is indeed a revolution. Electric cars that you can actually go somewhere in; gosh, imagine that.

The I-Pace is not just something you can go somewhere in, but is something you can go somewhere in quite quickly. With some 696 Nm of torque from standstill, it will dash to 100kph in a startling 4.8 seconds and has a top speed of 200kph.

That is not quite as quick as the Tesla. Elon Musk’s company has revolutionised electric and battery technology and does make smart-looking and very fast cars.

But the Tesla adventure has been beset by manufacturing, engineering, and investment difficulties.

Nevertheless, the electric Jaguar is not as fast a Tesla Model S, but it is certainly not slow and has the added benefit of a traditional dealer network.

Aside from comparisons with other electrics, the I-Pace is gorgeous to look at, sumptuously appointed within, and really good to drive.

The I-Pace is poised, has car-like handling (something not too many SUVs can say), and is hugely comfortable for passengers (at least, that’s what they told me).

The twin electric motors are sited on the front and rear axles, from where they provide power to all four wheels and this also means that the I-Pace is actually able to do what most SUVs are no longer designed to do: go off-road.

On the road, however, it is a neat, well-sorted package, with no obvious flaw.

You rarely have to hit the brakes: because the car is electric, when you take your foot off the pedal, the car stops, as there is no power.

I very nearly managed a journey from Cork city to West Cork without using the brakes at all.

It will regenerate both under deceleration and braking and this also stretches the range.

From a full charge, an initial burst of city driving ate into the range in alarming fashion, but once it settled into a longer drive, things evened out. I had a comfortable, 150km of range left after the 120km trip from Cork to Crookhaven. And I wasn’t sparing the horses.

THIS indicates that a slower driver would get over 300km from the system without undue difficulty. That said, it did take nearly ten hours of recharging to restore it to full capacity.

The interior is everything you expect an expensive Jaguar to be. Oozing quality and ingeniousness in equal measure, the cabin is a delight and the simplicity with which such a complex machine is rendered to the driver is an object lesson in ergonomic design. The dashboard graphics are ‘wow’ inducing.

The main question people asked me was about the I-Pace’s driving range. It was, I told them, the first all-electric worth considering as a daily car.

“So, you’re saying then,” one friend commented, “that it is not like all the other glorified golf carts that car-makers are trying to sell us now?”

No, Dave, it is far from that. So far, in fact, that it is a genuine alternative to historic norms.

Jaguar has taken a step into the future, and has beaten all its rivals to the punch.

Colley's Verdict

The Cost: from €81,585 - €90,880 as tested

The Engine: two permanent-magnet electric motors

The Specification: as aristocratic as you’d expect

The Verdict: a game changer

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