Everyone is going electric, but given the high costs associated with developing EVs, it’s little surprise luxury brands now lead the mainstream push. Tesla (and to a lesser extent, Nissan) got the ball rolling, Mercedes-Benz created its EQ brand, the VW Group introduced the Audi E-Tron and Porsche Taycan, Ford says the Lincoln brand will lead its EV efforts, and General Motors has appointed Cadillac to lead on its side. But what about a company like Jaguar Land Rover, a much smaller automaker that consists of two luxury brands still wed to big, growling gasoline and diesel engines? We talked to Joe Eberhardt, president and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, about the automaker’s plans when it comes to electrification.
The All-New, All-Electric Jaguar XJ Should Break Cover This Year
Jaguar is preparing to introduce the next generation of its flagship sedan: the XJ, which we expect to see this year before it becomes available in 2021. Unlike the gas-fired previous-gen version shown above, the new car will exclusively have an electric powertrain. It will use JLR’s MLA (Modular Longitudinal Architecture) platform slated to underpin a wide swath of new vehicles in the years to come. “It’s a different interpretation of a sedan, but it’s a sedan,” Eberhardt said of the XJ. While the MLA was designed with the flexibility to produce vehicles with gasoline and diesel engines, mild hybrids (48-volt system), plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles, Eberhardt said there are no plans to give the XJ a combustion engine. “The XJ is fully electric but there will be other models where we will have a combination of engine [options],” he said.
In June 2019, JLR said it was investing $1.15 billion at its Solihull and Castle Bromwich (which will make the XJ) plants to make vehicles on the MLA platform with an assortment of powertrains. Eberhardt said the ultimate goal is not necessarily to be a pure EV brand. “In my professional lifetime, we won’t be a full electric. Our stated goal is that every new Jaguar or Land Rover product that is launched will have at least one form of electrified powerplant. The important element is being every new car.”
Jaguar J-Pace in Development?
One of those new cars is expected to be the long-rumored Jaguar J-Pace electric crossover, which would serve as a crossover SUV companion to the XJ. Eberhardt would not comment on it. Autocar in the U.K. reports an electric Land Rover nicknamed the “Road Rover” is also in the works. All three electric vehicles could be on sale by the end of 2021. And the J-Pace and “Road Rover” could be offered as hybrids, as well.
The Jaguar I-Pace, introduced in 2018, is Jaguar’s first electric vehicle and its construction is contracted through Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. It isn’t meeting sales expectations—it sold less than 2,600 units in the U.S. last year—but if there is a second generation, it could also move to the MLA platform and assembly could be brought in-house to either of the retooled U.K. plants.
When it comes to electrification, JLR does not want to differentiate by brand, say, by making Jaguar the electric-vehicle poster child while Land Rover is the capable, combustion-engine SUV brand. The degree of electrification will be on a model-by-model basis. “I don’t think there’s one size fits all,” says Eberhardt. It will depend on the vehicle, platform and even the infrastructure. “Clearly on a large SUV, a full battery-electric vehicle is more difficult. If you look at the geometry, if you look at the weight, if you look at some of the off-road capabilities, it’s not as easy. So, there’s different powertrains that fit different applications. Our goal will be to find the best possible solutions for customers in each of those segments. That’s why we are not all eggs in one basket but try to be selective and build a combination that works for the customer.” The expectation is Range Rover and Ranger Rover Sport models will lean more to being plug-in hybrids or feature 48-volt mild hybrid systems, with some halo electric models. Eberhardt would not comment on a high-performance electrified powertrain from JLR for a future SVR. “Couldn’t announce it or confirm it,” he says.
JLR will also continue to offer diesel engines for the foreseeable future. “We still offer diesels in Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Discovery,” Eberhardt said. “They do have some significant and fundamental benefits in terms of range, fuel economy, and torque for towing. It remains to be seen what the long-term future is for diesels. We have a good take rate. Customers are very happy with it. It is increasingly difficult and challenging, though, given the entire push back on the industry. As far as we’re concerned, it’s a good powertrain to have but whether it will be there in perpetuity remains to be seen.” In other words, JLR’s diesel V-8, as well as its gasoline V-8 and the new supercharged I-6 Ingenium engine, are not going away anytime soon.
Waymo Autonomous Vehicles
For most automakers, electric vehicles go hand in hand with autonomous capability. In the case of JLR, the automaker is working with Waymo and signed a contract to supply up to 20,000 electric I-Paces for Waymo’s autonomous commercial ride-hailing service. “We have the contract to supply a minimum of 9,000 vehicles. We haven’t started delivering them,” Eberhardt said last month. So far Waymo has been working with Jaguar prototypes. “We are in constant discussions with them. The final details are not ready to be announced, but clearly that’s an ongoing [partnership].”
Waymo is outfitting the I-Pace with fifth-generation technology that includes multiple lidar sensors including one on the roof and one on each corner of the vehicle for a full 360-degree view of the world. Eberhardt would not say if JLR benefits from the technology Waymo is testing, saying again that discussions are ongoing. And JLR is working on autonomous-vehicle technology of its own. “We have prototypes running in the U.K. as part of some engineering partnerships with universities, University of Warwick in particular. We’re part of some government-funded initiatives in the U.K.”
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