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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Jaguar I-Pace: The electric dream that can give charging nightmares

Jaguar’s award-winning gorgeous battery-powered SUV has shredded the perception of what electric vehicles are, but makes no sense without good charging infrastructure

brunch Updated: Apr 06, 2019 23:20 IST
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hindustan Times
The Jaguar I-Pace steers with a level of fluency and precision that belies its weight
The Jaguar I-Pace steers with a level of fluency and precision that belies its weight
         

With air pollution a burning issue these days, it’s become cool to talk about electric vehicles (EVs) and pronounce them as our salvation from lung-choking car exhaust fumes. But most of the ‘experts’ who espouse an EV’s virtues have never driven an EV, let alone owned one. In a way you can’t fault them because in India, there are no EVs to speak of that an individual can walk into a showroom and buy. Not yet at least.

Living with an electric car is a novel experience and hence I jumped at the chance to spend a week with one in London where, unlike the non-existent charging infrastructure in India, there is a growing network of public charging points. And it wasn’t an ordinary EV I was driving, but Jaguar’s award-winning I-Pace, a gorgeous-looking battery-powered SUV that has shredded the perception of what EVs are.

Power cut

Boring? Dull to drive? Far from it. The I-Pace warms your heart the minute you clap eyes on its sleek lines and then makes it thump the moment you prod the accelerator. But the I-Pace also got my heart beating for the wrong reason. It’s called ‘range anxiety’ or that nagging fear the car doesn’t have enough charge to get you home. This is actually the main reason why mass adoption of EVs hasn’t happened globally.

The I-Pace warms your heart the minute you clap eyes on its sleek lines and then makes it thump the moment you prod the accelerator
The I-Pace warms your heart the minute you clap eyes on its sleek lines and then makes it thump the moment you prod the accelerator

A faulty charger at one of the airport hotels where the I-Pace was parked meant the I-Pace’s lithium ion battery pack wasn’t fully charged by the time I arrived. Thankfully it still had a range of around 160km, which was more than enough to get me home, but any plans of enjoying the car in the countryside that Saturday afternoon were shot and the only thing on my mind was to find a place to fully charge the I-Pace.

Charging is not easy even in London. An extension cable connected to a house power socket comes to the rescue
Charging is not easy even in London. An extension cable connected to a house power socket comes to the rescue

That’s when I discovered that even in London, charging an electric car isn’t as easy as I thought. Firstly, the really quick 100kW charging points are far and few between and secondly, it’s a real hassle to figure out how to use the multitude of charging stations, which, depending on the service provider, have different apps and pay-as-you-use cards, to access.

All charged up

Finally, it was a bit of improvisation or jugaad as we call it that worked out best. A 30-foot extension cable from Sainsbury’s plugged into a domestic socket at home, long enough to reach the I-Pace parked outside, did the trick. It’s just that charging any EV this way takes an excruciatingly long time, but the next day with a fully-charged battery and a range of 350 km, I was ready to enjoy the I-Pace.

The absence of sound and the utterly linear way in which it accelerates robs the car of character

The instant power delivery is simply staggering. There is no delay, no waiting for the engine to wake up or selecting the right gear. Just press your right foot and the I-Pace takes off like a scalded cat (it is a Jaguar after all) and it’s so easy to zap through traffic. The pair of electric motors, which combined produce 400 hp, catapults the 2.1 ton
I-Pace from 0-100kph in 4.8 seconds – very quick by any standards. And all this performance is silently and efficiently delivered without the noise and drama of a high performance engine. That’s not necessarily a good thing because the absence of sound and the utterly linear way in which the I-Pace accelerates has a synthetic feel and robs the car of character.

The absence of sound and the utterly linear way in which it accelerates robs the car of character
The absence of sound and the utterly linear way in which it accelerates robs the car of character

Thankfully, the handling is quite engaging and the I-Pace steers with a level of fluency and precision that belies its weight. In fact, the I-Pace is genuinely fun to drive, offering agility and a level of driver involvement you don’t associate with this genre of vehicles.

It’s rare for an EV to make you smile but the I-Pace certainly does. But to make that smile permanent, the charging infrastructure needs be sorted first.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India

Sunday Drive appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, April 7, 2019

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First Published: Apr 06, 2019 21:50 IST

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