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The Charging Point

Your one-stop destination for electric and hybrid cars

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Driving the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Electric Racing Car

Some petrol heads and motor racing enthusiasts believe that electric cars and motorsport are as ill suited as sugar-rimmed pint glasses in a pub.

Jaguar hopes to change their views. It is joining ABB FIA Formula E, the most high profile racing series for electric cars that’s about to start its fifth season, with a new one-make support race that will see 20 I-Pace luxury SUVs charge from the start line and battle it out for the lead at every twist and turn of 10 exciting circuits in some of the world’s most glamorous cities.

From New York to Paris, Hong Kong to Rome, Jaguar’s silent racing machines will bolster Formula E’s efforts to attract a new, younger audience to motorsport. The city locations have helped attract more families to racing, as they can watch cars slug it out, wheel-to-wheel, then enjoy lunch at their favourite city restaurant before hitting the high-street for some retail therapy.

For fans, the attraction is obvious. But what about the drivers who’ll compete in Jaguar’s new I-Pace eTrophy championship, which starts this December, in Riyahd?

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The cost of racing in Jaguar’s I-Pace eTrophy championship

For aspiring professional racing drivers, electric cars present a clear opportunity. Car manufacturers and sponsors are queuing up to align themselves with the shift to electric cars – the World Rallycross Championship will be electric from 2020 – so competing in an electric car series, like the I-Pace eTrophy, could be a smart move.

It won’t come cheap, though. Exclusive of VAT, the car costs £200,000 to buy outright, or £65,000 to lease for one season, and Jaguar charges a further £450,000 to run it in the championship for drivers, as part of what’s known as an ‘arrive and drive’ package.

Jaguar even includes a driver’s race kit, so all a competitor has to do is pack a passport, jump on a plane to one of the capital city destinations, and everything will be ready for them.

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The hardware of the I-Pace eTrophy

Effectively, the eTrophy racing car is an I-Pace with a roll cage. Okay, that’s simplifying the process somewhat. However, the 90 kWh, 600kg battery pack, two electric motors (one for driving the front wheels, the other for the rear wheels), single-speed transmission and body structure are pretty much the same as the production car found in Jaguar showrooms.

It develops 395hp and 513Ib ft of torque, but Colin Ramsden, the chief engineer overseeing the development of the car for Jaguar Racing, mischievously adds, “we have tweaked the software”.

Few five-seat electric cars are as light as a feather. So the car’s aluminium bodywork is replaced with as much composite and carbon fibre material as possible, helping lower the kerbweight from 2133kg to 1995kg.

The racing machine is four-wheel drive, and able to accelerate from standstill to 62mph in 4.5 seconds – a shade quicker than a Porsche 911 Carrera. The top speed is nothing to write home about, mind you: 121mph could almost be matched by a 1-litre Volkswagen Polo.

It doesn’t matter, says Jaguar Racing. The tight, twisting tracks used around the international city locations don’t allow for especially high speeds. Instead, the skill will be to brake as late as possible, using the hugely powerful AP Racing anti-lock brakes, and conserve momentum through corners as you jostle for position with another couple of cars around you.

 

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Driving Jaguar’s electric racing car

 As with most racing cars, you sit low on the floor, far back in the middle of the car, and can’t see much ahead. The beautifully crafted dashboard of the road-going I-Pace has been replaced by a simple digital display, from Cosworth, and a bank of switches on a crude centre console.

 Dials on the steering wheel allow drivers to change the level of assistance of the anti-lock system or choose from one of four torque maps for the motors. The brake bias and suspension are also adjustable.

It’s odd to press the motor start button and not hear an angry engine bark to life. Pulling out onto Silverstone’s Stowe circuit, there’s just the rumble of the 22-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres and a faint whine from the electric drivertrain. No engine roar, no pops or bangs from gearshifts, because you don’t have to change gear or worry about selecting the wrong one, and no rev limiter to slam into. 

Instead, the car makes deceptively fast progress in stealthy silence. The levels of grip are good. There’s also a level of adjustability to the car’s handling but it never gives the impression it will bite – this is an idiot-proof race car.

Is it fun? In isolation, not especially. But put 19 other I-Pace eTrophy cars around you, with drivers who are determined to make a name for themselves in every 30-minute race, and it is likely to be challenging.

 Jaguar is wise to seize the initiative and enter electric car racing before the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. It has an opportunity to steal a lead over such larger manufacturers in the race to sell electric cars, and as the old saying goes, racing on a Sunday should help sell cars on a Monday. Especially in such glamorous city-centre surroundings.