By on October 1, 2019

Despite delivering what could be considered a desirable premium EV with the I-Pace, Jaguar Land Rover admits it’s not entirely sold on the idea of electric sport utility vehicles. Due to their size, SUVs and crossovers are inherently heavier than traditional sedans — placing them at odds with the goal of maximizing efficiency.

More mass means diminished range. While this can be offset by a manufacturer installing larger battery packs, that increases costs and ultimately adds more heft to the single heaviest component in an EV. Large electrics bring other issues to the engineering table, too.

“The larger the vehicle the larger the aero challenge. If you’re not careful you end up with such big batteries and you make the vehicles so heavy that as you race down the autobahn the range disappears,” Nick Rogers, JLR’s head of engineering, told media at the company’s revamped engineering and design center in Gaydon, England.

Aerodynamic compromises are as plain as the nose on the I-Pace’s face. While Jaguar’s utility models are often sleeker than the competition, the all-electric I-Pace crossover takes things a step further by offering about the same ground clearance as a Honda Accord. While not hideous (or bad to drive), these compromises informed the shape of the model as much as anything else — which is probably why its silhouette matches that of Tesla’s Model X so closely. Until new advancements in battery technology crop up, this may be the only shape for the job.

Rogers said that delivering JLR’s SUV-related emission goals could require bringing “other technologies into play.” According to Automotive News, he suggests hydrogen technology as a possible alternative.

Unfortunately, the automaker’s leadership has mocked the idea of hydrogen-powered cars for years. Only small pockets of the planet have any fueling infrastructure in place, making global proliferation extremely slow in a best-case scenario. Wolfgang Ziebart, JLR’s head of product development, claimed he had no faith in the technology back in 2016. “The well to wheel relationship from the energy source to the vehicle is a disaster,” he said.

Jaguar Land Rover appointed a new head of hydrogen and fuels cells in March, but the company has not indicated its pursuit of any hydrogen-related research thus far. Rogers remains optimistic, however, and believes hydrogen could be a viable solution “if you’re creating the hydrogen with renewable energy.”

That’s not to suggest JLR is abandoning alternative-energy vehicles, however. Land Rover is currently attempting to add more plug-in hybrids to its fleet — including the new Defender. It also has a standing agreement with BMW to jointly develop electric powertrains.

From Automotive News:

JLR could benefit from its partnership with BMW after agreeing in June to work with its German rival on electric drive units.

BMW is currently collaborating with Toyota on fuel cells and will launch a test fleet of fuel cell versions of the X5 and X7 SUVs in 2021.

However, BMW said it backs batteries over fuel cells for creating zero-emission cars.

“The development we expect for battery density would make BEVs the most-efficient solution,” Klaus Froehlich, BMW Group board member for development, said on the sidelines of the company’s NextGen event in June.

Froelich said a fuel cell powertrain is 10 times more expensive than a full-electric one. The prices will not be comparable until about 2025, he said.

It should also be mentioned that, despite the I-Pace receiving a fair amount of praise for its on-road dynamics and adequate, 234-mile range, the model has not been a sales success. In the United States, Jaguar only moves around 200 units per month. Europe performed better and saw a surge in volume a few months after the 2018 launch, peaking at 2,983 deliveries last December. However, EU sales have declined since then, with July seeing a scant 774 orders.

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

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18 Comments on “Jaguar Land Rover Less Certain About Battery Powered SUVs in 2019...”

  • avatar

    I’m less certain about JLR continuing to be a going concern.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Hydrogen is a fool’s errand. No infrastructure, unsafe and unreliable filling, high purchase cost, high operating cost, and terrible energy equation. Toyota – the best at this – is moving less than 2k Mirais a year.

    The I-Pace has disappointing real-world range due to its poor efficiency, according to several reviews. A Model X with the same size battery goes a lot farther, for instance.

    • 0 avatar

      “Hydrogen is a fool’s errand. No infrastructure, unsafe and unreliable filling, high purchase cost, high operating cost, and terrible energy equation.”

      Didn’t they say the same about EVs?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Not all of it.

        Dealing with cryogenic, 10,000 psi H2 is somewhat more exotic and more costly than working with tried-and-true electrical systems that have powered homes for a century.

        And my EV costs $0.03/mile to operate. A Mirai costs the same as a Hellcat to operate, not to mention its $60k purchase price.

        When considering alternate fuels, I suppose people could deal with one downside or another, but hydrogen has them all.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sure who “they” was, but if you look at the physics of producing hydrogen and then using it to power an automobile, you’ll see why SCE to AUX said what he said.

        • 0 avatar

          Toyota Mirais have a 15 yr limit on the life of the storage system There’s a “don’t fuel after” sticker with a date on the inside of the fuel door. What I don’t get, is why does it have a chronological expiration rather than number of times fueled?

          Tesla has the “million-mile” battery on the way, but all that does as it ages is lose range over time if it doesn’t live up to it’s expected life. What is it like when a 10,000 psi fuel tank doesn’t last as long as expected? What if there is an undetected flaw in the storage system of a hydrogen vehicle?

          • 0 avatar

            For the same reasons the propane tank in your backyard grill has an expiration date. Corrosion, pressure cycling , (and for cars, hydrogen embrittlement) age and fatigue the metal making a safety issue.

      • 0 avatar

        Some of those points are still true, esp if you factor in depreciation into your operating cost.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed here.

      What most people don’t seem to realize about Hydrogen is that it is not a fuel in a traditional sense. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it almost never stands alone – it’s always attached to something else.

      It takes energy, sometimes lots of it, to separate the hydrogen from whatever it is attached to.

      In this sense, Hydrogen is a really complicated and difficult battery. It is a store of energy – we have to put the energy in to it to get it back later.

      Liquid fuels are similar, but the solar storage process has already been mostly done for us by nature.

      Electricity, generated from many types of sources, makes the most sense. We know how do to it, we have lots of transmission infrastructure to act as the foundation for a larger infrastructure later.

      We also know precisely what that infrastructure will cost.

      Petroleum and electricity are not an either/or thing. Both will have a role to play in our transportation future.

  • avatar

    Well, there must be a reason EVs took off and hydrogen didn’t. As far as refueling goes, everyone who owns a house, (potentially) could gas up their EV each evening. Hydrogen, not so much.

  • avatar

    Did anyone watch “Apollo-13”?

  • avatar

    The I Pace is now the UKs top selling electric car:

    Though I’m not sure what that tells you about sales of electric cars more broadly

  • avatar


    That is the answer. The compression-ignition motor will provide you with power, good fuel economy and range. Equipped with modern emissions control systems, those Diesel engines emit less CO2 and particulates than a comparable gasoline engine.

    • 0 avatar

      High-compression, direct-injected gasoline engines are now approaching the efficiency of diesel with less emissions complexity.

      Diesel is great, but urea injection and particulate capture filters are a bit of a pain.

      • 0 avatar

        The urea injection is actually quite reliable (my wife’s 2018 Skoda Octavia has it) provided you avoid constant short trips in combination with the DPF. The DPF requires extreme heat to regenerate and diesels need time to warm up.

        My brother owns a taxi business and the urea systems on his predominantly Mercedes-Benz fleet (mostly E-Klassen) are problem-free. They now also come with larger urea tanks ensuring more mileage and less urea fill-ups.

  • avatar

    Maybe in 5-7 years the EV will actually be relevant after all:

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