Jaguar’s I-Pace proved a pleasant electric shock on test. But asks many e-questions
This Jaguar I-Pace is perhaps the most significant road test we have ever undertaken in over 30 years playing the game. It happens right on the cusp of a huge transition that’s set to change the motor industry forever. So before we even start, let’s cover a little recent history.
THE BATTERY IS KILLING THE PISTON CAR SHOW
Far from eco motoring heathens, we’re rather disillusioned battery car observers. We are concerned by changes forced on the industry, cars and drivers. We’ve long been intrigued by the possibilities of eco cars and driving. In fact we published our first Cars in Action Green Edition back in 2005 and did one every year until the internet killed the magazine show. Suppose it’s ironic that the battery is now killing the piston show.
We were also the first publication in South Africa to publish every car’s CO2 data by a good three years back then. To be clear, we were passionate about eco driving and championed it. I personally see battery cars as an alternative. Not the solution. Sadly most of my electric experiences have been tarnished. So much so that I’ve sadly turned to become opposed to the whole electric car thing.
Real life experiences proved to be nothing as was claimed and perpetual lies, smoke and mirrors angered me. Some carmakers even turned their backs on us for reporting the facts. In spite of themselves actually proving us right. Little wonder why we came to abhor the things.
But right now, whether it’s a lie or not; whether we like it or not, overseas lawmakers have conspired to insert the car industry’s balls in the vice. And it’s clamping it closed. Only this week, Boris Johnston confirmed the UK will ban combustion cars in 2030, hybrids in 2035. Will the UK be ready for that? Can the carmakers cope? Will the British car industry survive this knee jerk? I’m not sure.
WILL PETROL CARS BECOME REDUNDANT?
Further news out of Europe this week is of even more draconian EU7 emissions regulations likely being imposed by 2025. That will make all new piston and even hybrid cars redundant overnight. Crazy as it seems, 2025 is just four years away…
Most surprising of all however, is that Volvo offshoot electric carmaker Polestar recently revealed that an electric car is nowhere as clean as we are being led to believe. Far from zero emissions, it admits that while a petrol car will emit 58 tonnes of carbon through a 200,000 km lifespan, one of its electric cars would emit 27 tonnes if charged off clean wind power.
The same car would however make 42 tons of CO2 using the European electricity mix. And 50 on the global mix. Which makes electric cars just 16% cleaner than petrol vehicles, on average over their lifespan in global terms today.
Now considering that the sick South African electricity grid is allegedly double as dirty as the world average, your Eskom charged e-car will be some 30% dirtier — and that’s worse than an equivalent petrol car over its lifecycle. For the record electric cars are dirtier to build than combustion vehicles, never mind their batteries contribute handsomely to their carbon footprint. And must be disposed with after.
Still, Europe, where electric cars only save 20% in real world carbon emissions versus petrol on average, is forcing combustion vehicles out of the picture.
So, whether we like it or not, electric cars are going to become an ever bigger part of our lives. Even if they continue to be fish out of water in sunny old South Africa. Which could not give a hoot about emissions, even less for battery electric vehicles.
It was into this scenario that the Jaguar I-Pace glided into our lives for a week’s test. This story will be in three parts. You’ve read the first bit and now we will consider the car. Then we’ll cover living with it in South Africa.
BEHOLD THE ELECTRIC DREAM
First and foremost, we still wonder why carmakers insist on making electric cars look stupid. Driving one is like wearing a dunce hat and sitting in the corner in primary school class. Why not just build electric cars that look like the rest of the range? Not that the I-Pace is too typical of that daft trait, but it’s different. And divisive. Let’s just leave that one there.
I was however blown away by my overdue first driving experience. Floor it and I-Pace thrusts you back in the seat and sets off after the horizon like Luke Skywalker’s Star Wars fighter pod. And it sounds much the same too. There’s a wonderful deep and distant animal roar — a mechanical scream as the 294 kW 696 Nm electric car sets about its rapid business.
Its prowess came through in our trials too — half a second quicker than Jaguar’s claim to 100 km/h, I-Pace is among the quicker cars we’ve road tested this year. As the numbers below attest, you need a pretty sharp tool from the petrol box to beat that. This electric Jaguar will frighten the best conventional powered SUVs out there. Even those with M, AMG or similar badges.
This is one positive point of the test I feel I need to elaborate further on. I see much chirp on forums and chat groups, where people write they’d never drive electric — ‘bring me that V8’. Now I’m a V8 man through-and-through, but after I-Pace, I have a fresh yearning for electric performance. Now I secretly lust after the maddest Teslas and others. And I defy you critics to drive this car before just mouthing off…
A HEAVY CAR IS ALWAYS BETTER GLUED TO THE ROAD
The all-wheel drive I-Pace has an electric motor on each axle, powered by a 90 kWh Lithium-ion battery under the floor. It handles well — remember heft is like downforce — a heavy car is always better glued to the road. And while you do sense the weight, it’s not severe. The I-Pace chassis is certainly well enough sorted. It takes a second to get used to the regenerative braking. I found that helpful to apply to driving the car.
Spacious and airy, if a bit dark, the cabin is a cool space. But nowhere near perfect. Remember what I said about electric cars trying too hard to be different? Well, this one suffers most from the old dunce hat in its secondary controls and displays. The primary bits are cool — gauges are great, interactive and clear. And the R N D P drive buttons easy and logical.
But I couldn’t get my head around the climate, radio and other controls. Not least while driving. I eventually gave up and rolled down the window for air on one trip. Because I was becoming a danger to myself, distracted while I tried to figure it all out. Of course you’ll soon get it if you drive one everyday.
And then there’s the reflection from the noonday sun shining through on the flat touch surfaces. You can’t see the displays and prompts in those conditions. Reinventing the wheel, perhaps?
All-in-all, our driving experience of the Jaguar I-Pace was wonderful. Yes, there are some silly cabin design defects and among its interfaces are annoyingly counter intuitive. Overall however, it’s a great driving thrill. But there’s more to it than that. Quite a bit more.
AND NOW, MEET THE ELEPHANTS
If you have abundant clean energy at your disposal, you live and drive in, or near enough to the city and you’re not fussed about deadlines or travel time when you do roam, then well and good. This car is great.
But in just about every other scenario, living with I-Pace can still be quite challenging, as some of our experiences with it so well proved. And I emphasise that ’still’, because the scenario should steadily improve anon.
First and foremost, Jaguar claims I-Pace ‘delivers up to 470km range’. The ‘up to’ in that quote is the crucial part. We reckon you need to run it down a 70km mineshaft to achieve the claim. The car was fully charged when it left to be delivered to us, 70km away. The driver did well to hand it over at 274km range. He said it started with 340 km off a full charge. Do you see where our mineshaft fits?
Secondly, and this is just a personal thing, right through the test, I found myself fixated by the range readout. Even when I knew full well that I was travelling somewhere an eighth of the range distance away. Welcome to range anxiety. I trust that it will ease in time. But there’s good reason for it.
BEWARE — ELEPHANTS DO CHARGE
Thats because we had a nightmare trying to charge the car. On the third night, the range had dropped, so we decided to plug it in. Now I-Pace comes with two charger cables under the bonnet. One with a three-point household socket and another proper one for fast station charging. So we plugged the household one in on the wall and let it charge. Eleven hours later next morning, I-Pace only had just over 50% charge.
Now anyone who buys one of these cars will likely have a home charger installed. Never mind that Jaguar now supplies and installs an AC wall charger worth some R18K as part of the I-Pace deal in SA (remember where you read that first!) It will happily fully charge the car overnight. It is also important to note that Jaguar emphasises that the 2.2 kW trickle charger should be used only when absolutely necessary. But it’s all we had.
Getting back to our world, that 50% charge I note two paras up gave the car 170km range. It was Sunday morning, so I thought a spin over to Stellies, 33 km away to fast charge it there, would be cool. Of course Helshoogte would use a bit more charge than many other roads en route. I’d be busy an hour and a half, enough to charge up quite adequately.
I glanced at the charger point on the app on my phone as we went and took the pin to be at the JLR dealer and headed straight there. The white box was on the wall, so I plugged in and swiped the card. The box went click and we waddled off to the nearby market. I found myself scratching my head on our return. Why did I-Pace still only have 175 km range an hour and a half later.
PINS EVEN PRICK ELEPHANTS
So by the time we arrived home (back over Helshoogte, where I-Pace once again charmed), there was just 113km range left. Now what?
It transpired that I went to the wrong charger! The dealer one was an old AC unit. The fast one was at the mall, 500 metres away. Sure, I erred not to double check the pin. But there was only one pin on the map in that area. And no other way to know that I was in the wrong place!
I figure that the mall charger would have given me around 80%, or about 280km range and I’d still have had 230 or so back at home. My next mistake was to try work out the cost of a full charge using a linear formula and I completely miscalculated that. The real cost per kilometre of all our charging worked out to be about R217 for the 75-odd kWh we used while we had the car. Under a rand a kilometre. Which is pretty good, after all.
Now there’a another rider to the charge cost. If your home is off the grid and you live on solar, it should cost you nothing to charge your e-car. The system cost would be covered by your domestic account, which would make your fuel costs zero. Never mind that solar applications are becoming more affordable by the month. Think about that for a second.
Taking about charge stations, there are now over 40 in SA. None in my village yet, and none in Paarl either. But several close enough by, if I can find the right one! The holes in the grid I mention will also all be plugged soon. And once you get your mind around it, it should be quite simple to adapt to the e-car charging lifestyle. Never mind that Jaguar I-Pace owners earn a 25% discount when charging on its official grid.
AN ELEPHANT CHARGES HOW LONG?
So, that’s actual charging covered, but the next elephant is how long it takes to charge. Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve had to rush to the city and back, and both times I drove a petrol car,. And both times it had too little fuel in when I set off. So I popped into the petrol station and asked for R200. Before I knew it, I’d tapped the card and set off again with 150km more range on the clock. All in under two minutes.
Considering that I need to go find a fast charger and that it takes at least an hour or more to add that much range to an electric car, is a certain compromise. Especially to people like me who are inevitably late. And don’t even mention charging times at home versus a petrol top up.
But then if you have an electric car, it will likely most always be ready and charged. Whereas you can rely on topping the petrol car up at ease at any of your local forecourts, so one gets used to that convenience.
And then we get to the actual list price cost of the electric car, which is another negative. At around two million, you get a charger thrown in. But that’s still a pretty penny. Not that it really matters in this neck of the woods. Smaller electric cars have a far greater problem because they basically cost double versus an entry level petrol option.
Also remember that there are no electric car subsidies in South Africa, whereas many overseas countries pay you back a handsome credit to drive electric, so the cars cost significantly less.
See, no matter what they say, this is all politically driven. There are of course many other electric car arguments, most of which have pros and cons, some one, or the other, But that more or less covers this argument.
OUR MOST CHALLENGING ROAD TEST YET
So there you have it — this was the most challenging road test we have ever conducted. In so many ways. It’s been more of a voyage of discovery to be honest and we are thankful to those who indulged us through it.
But one thing is patently clear — if you drive a car, sooner or later, you too will have to experience what we just went through. And a bit more, too. No matter what we want or believe or not, electric cars will now rapidly become part of our everyday lives. We must learn to live with their challenges. And enjoy their advantages too. That’s just the way of the world right now.
And the Jaguar I-Pace? Well, that has swung our opinion too. If anything this experience — and the positive manner in which both Jaguar and its grid provider have embraced our concerns, has reinvigorated our interest in this change. The car is splendid to drive, to be honest. Sure, it has a few compromises that stem from it trying a bit too hard to be different. But overall it’s a lot of fun and it brings a very different and quite exciting spin to driving.
Jaguar has been heroically brave to take on a market diametrically out of tune with what it is trying to achieve. But believe you me, we will have no choice but to participate in this electric car thing sooner or later. And the way it’s going, I’d put my stick in that sooner sand right now.
It’s too easy to stand there and slam electric cars. Is it not rather time to start considering them as a prospect — even in a market that cares not a hoot if they come or not? The real point here is that all of what we cover above is very soon set to marginalise what cars we buy as their makers respond to the needs of markets that already demand an electric car only future. It will happen before we know it.
ENJOY THAT FREEDOM OF CHOICE WHILE IT LASTS
So enjoy your motoring freedom of choice right now. Especially if you’re anti-electric. Your next petrol or diesel car could very well be the last you ever buy. The crux of the matter is that the Jaguar I-Pace is a least five years ahead of its time in the South African market. And none of us can do anything about the reasons why. We’re just going to have to stand in line and accept it. Or catch the bus.
Bravo, Jaguar. – Michele Lupini
Images — Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Jaguar I-Pace EV400 AWD SE Motor: 294 kW 696 Nm twin electric Drive: Direct AWD TESTED: 0-60km/h: 2.25sec 0-100km/h: 4.35sec 0-160km/h: 10.80 sec 400m: 12.7 sec @ 171 km/h 80-120km/h: 2.79 sec 120-160km/h: 4.85 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 200 km/h Fuel: 0 CO2: 0 g/km* Warranty/service: 5y unl/2y 34K km Battery Warranty: 8 y 160K km LIST PRICE: R2.00M RATED: 8 *Use Phase Only