Jaguar debuted a new electric supercar at the Paris Motor Show last week that was stunning in both form and function. But in a strange coincidence, the C-X75's roots, representing the future of the car maker, were formed in the history of Abu Dhabi. Anthony Harper, part of the team behind the sleek, futuristic gas turbine concept, used to be a resident of the capital and has fond memories of his time here.
"I loved it there, I really did. I was there in the 1970s and 1980s; I went when I was 12 and left at 19. My dad was the chief engineer in the construction of the sewage plant there. When we first moved there, the blue BCCI building on the Corniche was by far the biggest building." Harper moved on to eventually become head of research and advanced system engineering and advance product creation for Jaguar Land Rover, and his latest work attracted a large crowd at its unveiling at the Paris show. Basically, the C-X75 is an extended range electric car, driven by four, 145kW (195hp) electric motors and a battery that would give the car a range of about 70 miles (112 kilometres). Two small gas turbines sitting behind the passenger compartment would turn generators to replenish electricity for the battery for longer range and more power.
"Think about this car as being fundamentally a lightweight EV, a supercar EV," said Harper. "We've put in enough batteries to cover about 70 miles, and that covers what most people would do in a day. But if you're gonna have an EV supercar, you're gonna have to have it do way more than 70 miles, and you'll need to provide more power than a battery alone can supply. But you don't want to compromise what the car is doing in EV mode, which it will be doing most of the time.
"You don't want to load it up with heavy V8 engines or other types of range-extension devices. So what you really want is something that delivers a whole heck of a lot of power with little weight, and that takes you to gas turbines. It's one of the few technologies that can deliver the supercar power without the weight." Indeed, the performance numbers would be on par with any sports car on the market. With acceleration from 0-to-100kph at 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 330kph, the C-X75 has serious sporting credentials. But it achieves that with emissions levels on par with those of normal cars - with the batteries depleted and the car running on turbines, it's expected to produce about 150g of CO2 on the European cycle, about the same as a Ford Mondeo.
The concept car is only run on electric power; the turbines, which are supplied by Bladon Jets to Jaguar, are being tested with another project. "We have a research program combining the turbines with a generator outside of a car, and that's a real programme that we expect to complete in a year's time," said Harper. "Now, there's still a long way to go, it's still experimental technology. But we wanted to put something more stretchy into this year's concept. But assuming that works, then I expect it to be another four years - with all the robustness and climate testing that has to be done - before we can put it into a vehicle. But we haven't made those decisions yet."
The hybrid, extended range principle is already being tested by Jaguar; the car maker has partnered with Lotus to use that company's conventional, three-cylinder range extender in three battery powered XJ sedans in a project termed Limo Green. One of those cars was driven from the UK to the Paris show. "So the principle is being tested," added Harper. "We're testing the turbines on a bench and if that works then we can take out the Lotus unit and test it like that."
The powertrain also helps with the swoopy form of the car, as Ian Callum, the head of design, pointed out. With no large, bulky engine block and gearbox to work around, a designer isn't as constrained in the shape of the car, as the batteries, motors and turbines can be moved around. Callum says the C-X75 demonstrates the next generation of Jaguar design; coupled with the technology tour de force, Jaguar looks set for future success.