Jaguar Land Rover is to develop three types of electric Range Rover Evoque because of continuing uncertainty in the market for alternative fuel cars.
The automotive giant is taking the unusual step with its Project Evoque_e, which gets under way this month, with sales figures for environmentally-friendly cars remaining underwhelming.
The £16.3 million project, one of the largest automotive projects to be co-funded by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB), will see Jaguar Land Rover invest £4 million into the programme.
Meanwhile, the Tata Motors-owned company is looking into setting up a new manufacturing facility in Brazil, according to reports.
Mark McNally, research project manager on Project Evoque_e, said the world of electric vehicles and hybrids was a fast-changing one, with uncertainty remaining as to how it would unfold.
“Everything is changing with the emergence of China,” he said. “We now have to look at the full breadth of technologies but it is a collaborative approach and the whole of the project has equity in what we deliver.”
The project will see the development of a full battery-powered electric vehicle (BEV), a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and a ‘mild’ hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV).
It includes 12 partners in total – nine from industry and three universities – and will last 27 months.
The partners include Zytek Automotive, GKN Driveline, Motor Design, AVL, Drive System Design, Williams Advanced Engineering, Delta Motorsport, Tata Steel, Bristol University, Cranfield University and Newcastle University.
Mr McNally said at the heart of the project is a determination to deliver a product that does not dilute the Jaguar Land Rover brand in any way.
“There will be no compromise on performance, we want to protect Jaguar Land Rover’s DNA, whether that is on-road or off-road performance,” he added.
The project will involve research into a whole host of technologies, including lightweight architecture to construct the vehicles, down-sized engines and advanced braking systems that can generate energy.
Mr McNally said the project would even look at innovative ways of using the energy produced when vehicles turn corners.
He added: “We will have three high-quality technical demonstrators in 2015, which are going to inform Jaguar Land Rover of what decisions to make in terms of its product development going forward.”
Jaguar Land Rover is currently involved in a number of research programmes with the Technology Strategy Board.
Antony Harper, head of research for Jaguar Land Rover, defended the use of public funding.
He said: “People ask why we need grants from the Government but they are based on future Jaguar Land Rover investment.
“In terms of where this can lead to you only have to look at the i54 engine plant in Wolverhampton. It was £300 million, it is now £500 million and will probably grow further.”
Meanwhile, reports in India claim Phil Popham, JLR’s director – group sales operations said the company is already holding talks with the Brazilian authorities over a plant.
No details of the scheme have been officially released, but it continues a trend of international manufacturing amid growing production. It already assembles cars in India and is developing a new factory in China.
Mr Popham said that the Brazilian market remained a strong one for the company and in order to keep the sales momentum going then expansion had to take place.
“We believe that to keep that momentum going, then we may have to manufacture some products there,” he is quoted as saying by The Hindu’s Business Line.
He adds: “We are in discussions with the Brazilian government about the potential to manufacture there.”