Ian Callum on his Dewar Trophy-winning EV

02 November 2017 | by Farah Alkhalisi

“It’s very exciting for designers at this time,” said Jaguar design director Ian Callum, speaking about the challenges of vehicle electrification and the programme to develop the all-electric I-Pace Concept. This, he said, “was an opportunity to do something quite different as we didn’t have the usual constraints.”

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Professor Dr. Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, receives the Dewar Trophy from RAC Chairman Tom Purves

Talking yesterday at the Royal Automobile Club in London, prior to Jaguar receiving the Club’s annual Dewar Trophy award for the I-Pace Concept, Callum expanded upon how the flat floor afforded by an electric powertrain, and the lack of an engine in the front, enabled a more cab-forward layout and roomy interior. “We actually had more volume inside the car than we needed or expected!” he said. “We ended up moving the seats forward.”

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While interior space may not have been a problem, other packaging challenges were presented nonetheless. “You have to keep the e-motors low enough,” Callum explained, saying that this creates issues in terms of both ride height and overall vehicle height, and that positioning the seats over the battery packs also needs careful consideration to give easy entry and exit.  “We chose an SUV-type vehicle for this first attempt at an EV as height and headroom are not so much of a challenge. It will be more challenging with the saloon and sports cars, especially putting the H-point [the position of a seated person’s hip] as low as possible.”  

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As such, the JLR design and engineering teams have been looking at different configurations for the battery packs, and alternative feasible locations around the car’s platform or body structure, Callum said. “The rear H-point is particularly crucial, and most demanding [to get right] so we will have to look to possible reconfigurations, especially for the sports cars.”

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Although the I-Pace was designed in parallel to the conventional internal-combustion E-Pace, the two are “slightly different products, demanding two completely different objectives. The styling themes are the same, the face, but the profile is different – all have their own challenges,” Callum said. And as well as being Jaguar’s first electric vehicle (it’s due for production next year, alongside the launch of a track version for a race series), the I-Pace showcases Jaguar’s next-generation digital display screen and interface technology to be rolled out across the range, he added. “While the read-out you get may be different [in terms of EV-specific data], the information is different, good design is constant.”

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On the subject of interface design in general, Callum says that as a rule, he “is not a great believer in great big i-Pad style, A3-sized screens as control centres. I try to break up the various message areas and number of screens into more manageable sizes and proportions, and maintain some physical aspects, i.e. rotary controls and switches.”

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He points to the importance of understanding where a driver’s fingers lie in a moving vehicle, and says that “ergonomics is sensitive. Haptics are coming in as well.” Other future developments will be seen from Jaguar in terms of how information is visualised, including head-up displays and how “everything beyond the screen” is presented. “Another trend is voice activation,” Callum adds. “Once people get used to domestic technology [using this], they will start to use it more, it will become more of a focal point for command.”

Yet while he’s probably not a fan of Tesla’s approach to interface design (“no comment!”), Callum pays tribute to Elon Musk’s vision and to how the Californian start-up has made EVs aspirational. “I’m not into making electric vehicles look odd,” he said. “They have to be desirable in their own right. The I-Pace will change perception of EVs, and it will change the perception of Jaguar.”

The I-Pace’s status as a desirable electric Jaguar in keeping with brand values was one factor in its winning the Dewar Trophy, the RAC Club said. Quite apart from this very traditional ‘motoring’ organisation (perhaps better-known to the general public for events such as the London-Brighton veteran car run, and for its exceedingly old-school gentlemen’s club on Pall Mall) applauding electrification, it’s interesting to note how design has been considered in what has previously been an engineering-based award to recognise technical achievements in the British automotive industry.

Meanwhile, at the same ceremony,  the Simms Medal for outstanding technical achievement and innovation in the British automotive industry was won by Ariel, Delta Motorsport and Equipmake, who make up the Hipercar Consortium which has collectively developed a new high-performance electric supercar – a four-wheel-drive range extended electric sports car, using a novel gas turbine range extender, with an overall power output of 1080bhp – in an impressive 24 months.

The Hipercar Consortium set out to collectively develop an extremely advanced car,” said Ariel’s Simon Saunders, “one which brings together UK-developed technology in every aspect of its design. We are absolutely delighted that the Royal Automobile Club has recognised our achievements.”

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RAC Chairman Tom Purves awarding the Simms Medal to the Hipercar Consortium – Nick Carpenter of Delta Motorsport, Neil Yates of Ariel and Ian Foley of Equipmake