Electric cars are rapidly gaining traction, Tesla is leading the charge, so to speak, but every manufacturer is working hard hoping to cash in. Converting older classic cars to electric power, however, is often the work of DIY owners and custom shops, building one off models or low production kits. Jaguar decided to do something a bit different with the Jaguar E Type Zero, investigating demand for an application where the car remains intact while the drivetrain is swapped out, demonstrating an idea that could start a trend.
Beginning with a 1968 Series 1.5 E-Type roadster, they removed the venerable XK DOHC six cylinder engine and replaced it with a 220kW (295 horsepower) lithium-ion battery pack specially designed to closely approximate the size, shape and weight of the engine it replaces. The electric motor and reduction gear are installed in place of the stock gearbox while a new driveshaft connects the powerplant to the differential. The replacements in total weigh 48kg (105 pounds) less than the original parts.
From the exterior, the E-Type looks the same, except for the lack of exhaust pipes and in this case, the dash and console have been upgraded and the gauges replaced with an electronic display that mimics the analog appearance of the originals. The covered headlights are LED.
Now here’s the good part. Though the electric powertrain has been limited to be in line with the power of the original engine, so as not to upset vehicle dynamics, acceleration is 5.5 seconds 0-62 mph, about 1 second quicker than a Series 1 E-Type.
What about range and recharge time?
The E-type Zero has a ‘real world’ range of 270km (about 170 miles), helped by the low weight and good aerodynamics. It uses a 40kWh battery, which can be recharged from home overnight (typically in six to seven hours, depending on power source).
Reactions to the change?
As with all attempts to transform any classic into a “resto-mod” like this, purists will complain, but as a former E-Type owner myself, I see nothing wrong here. They’ve stayed true to the original design of the car which is, to my eye and that of many others, one of the most beautiful to ever travel on any road. Performance is in line with the original, and it may, in the words of Jaguar, “future-proof classic car ownership.”
Is there a market for this type of conversion? Cost will likely be high so payback over the years won’t be a selling point and also unlikely to be the motivation for any owner to do it, but it could be a very enjoyable driving experience. Among those who can afford it, I would expect some to get in line.
The XK six-cylinder engine was made from 1949 until 1992, and was fitted to nearly all iconic Jaguar models of that period, including the E-type, XK120, Mk2 and XJ6. The new electric powertrain could be used in any of these vehicles.
This factory demonstrator shows what can be done for any brand with a long running engine design covering multiple models. If the cars are worth maintaining and preserving for many years, a well thought out and carefully designed electric transplant might be just the ticket. It’s certainly food for thought.
It will be interesting to see the response over time and whether the factory decides to go ahead, offering a kit or conversion service of some sort. Interesting, too, will be watching for other manufacturers trying to do something similar. As far as this one goes, though, I like it a lot.