Putting the I-PACE BEV through its paces at Jaguar Land Rover’s home base is an awesome experience. Here’s why.
Amazing, astounding, awesome, eye-opening, and fabulous are but a few adjectives that come to mind when describing the Jaguar Land Rover EXPERIENCE in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.
Entering the main building, the Welcome Centre is divided into two separate brand display zones for Jaguar and Land Rover, respectively. Here visitors can personally get up close with Jaguar Land Rover’s latest product range, technology showcases and branded merchandise. However, the awesome part of the facility is that the range can be test-driven on a variety of tracks by booking a selection of Experiences.
Launched in March 2019, the 14-hectare Lonehill, Sandton property features 3km of off-road trails, a series of tailor-made 4x4 obstacles, a 70-metre diameter skidpan (Dynamic Steering Circle) for low-traction handling exercises, and a 185-metre long by 30-metre wide tarmac area (Dynamic Handling Platform) for high-speed testing. Here, drivers can put the various Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles through their paces. And you don’t test-drive in isolation. The driving courses are hosted by skilled EXPERIENCE instructors highlighting each vehicle model’s salient features and capabilities.
The onsite restaurant, TLC on the Track, is ideally positioned on the main building’s upper level overlooking the 4x4 course. While Jaguar vehicle experiences need to be booked in advance, the restaurant is open to the public for walk-ins from 8am to 5pm, seven days a week. TLC specialises in South African-inspired dishes for breakfast and lunch with a vast menu catering to all tastes.
Anyway, all of the above is hindsight. I actually came here to experience driving the Jaguar I-PACE as part of my all-electric vehicle journalism mission.
The Jaguar I-PACE
As a pioneer of battery electric vehicles (BEV) in South Africa, Jaguar Land Rover apparently spent around R33 million to develop battery recharging infrastructure across the country. According to my knowledgeable Jaguar EXPERIENCE instructor, Andrew Blane, that sum excluded building the facility. However, it’s still a serious investment and long-term commitment to the future of EVs in the country.
To expand its recharge grid, Jaguar Land Rover SA partnered with GridCars to establish the Jaguar Powerway. This national EV charging highway comprises 22 charging stations along the N3 between Gauteng and Durban and the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town. Cape Town is connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 to East London. The majority of charging stations on the public network is 60kWh fast chargers. GridCars now operate over 300 charge points across South Africa. But that’s another in-depth story I’ll delve into soon.
Initially launched in South Africa in 2019, the I-PACE has an industry-leading 90kWh Lithium-ion battery. This enables a 470km range and 0–80% charging times of as little as 45 minutes using a 100kW fast-charger. Getting the battery to full charge (100%) takes around 1.5 hours (using a 60kW fast-charger). The car comes with AC and DC power cables stored in the front bonnet compartment.
Besides extended travelling range capabilities and fast battery charging times, one of the generally-held public misconceptions about the viability of EV vehicles is the cost of electricity. Especially in a country monopolised and plagued by the state-owned electricity grid supplier ESKOM and its all-too-frequent load shedding power outages.
According to Andrew, charging the 90kWh I-PACE battery on-grid at home from 0–80% would cost R136.80 working on an electricity tariff of R1.90 per kWh. A full charge would cost R170.
That’s assuming you’re using an AC wall box home charger, which is the most cost-effective and convenient way. At 7.4kW AC power, charging the battery to full capacity would take 12.7 hours. Of course, if you’re one of the fortunate few South Africans to have gone off-grid using solar power, the aforementioned home-recharging figure would be a lot lower.
A more powerful DC charger such as those in public places like shopping centres and highway rest stops will be more rapid than AC home wall boxes. This is because they can directly charge the battery and bypass the onboard charger.
Recharging at a public DC recharge station costs around R5.80 per kWh, so R417.60 for a 0–80% charge and R522 for a full charge.
Comparing the above figures to the cost of driving a fuel-combustion vehicle over a similar distance would equate to around R954 (470km @ 9.4 L/100 km = 44.18 L x R21.60 (hi-octane 95 fuel) = R954.29). Besides greenhouse gas emission savings, these figures significantly save daily travelling costs.
Getting behind the wheel and driving the I-PACE is where the astounding adjective comes in. The battery power chain delivers 696Nm of instant torque, providing astounding acceleration from 0–100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. That’s phenomenal when comparing it to the Jaguar F-Type coupé’s V8 (P450 RWD Auto) engine, which delivers 460Nm of torque(@ 4,500–5,000rpm) for acceleration from 0–100km/h in 4.6 seconds. Despite the two-second difference, I reckon the I-PACE would outpace the F-Type from a stand-still start due to its direct-to-wheel power transfer. Unfortunately, Andrew and I didn’t have time to test my theory. However, the two Jaguar models are not equally matched in top speed. The I-PACE is governed at 200km/h and the F-Type coupé at 285km/h (P450 engine).
What baffled me was how Jaguar’s engineering team managed to tweak such impressive performance from a long-wheel-based SUV spec. “They purpose-designed the I-PACE from the ground up”, says Andrew. “It’s all about aerodynamics”. To demonstrate, he pointed out the I-PACE’s front grill (the grill vanes open when cooling the battery and closes when not needed to smooth airflow), side air-intake vents, bonnet scoop, and retractable door handles.
“All of these features, along with the car’s low centre of gravity, help make the I-PACE more aerodynamic. The engineers even removed the rear windscreen wiper to make it more streamlined. They treated the screen with a nano-particle coating to make it hydrophobic and self-cleaning”. Apparently, when the I-PACE exceeds 105km/h, it automatically adjusts ground clearance by dropping the air suspension to improve aerodynamics.
Driving the I-PACE onto the Dynamic Handling Platform area, Andrew demonstrated some of the car’s salient features before allowing me behind the wheel to experience these for myself. In Enhanced Brake Regeneration (EBR) mode, the vehicle recuperates almost all braking energy, helping to maximise the I-PACE’s range. In fact, the car does that even when EBR mode is turned off. The only noticeable difference is the degree of de-acceleration force applied, which feels a bit jerky until you get used to easing off on the accelerator pedal gently. In EBR mode, you hardly ever need to touch the brake pedal unless coming to a complete stop.
The I-PACE comes with a bunch of cameras and radar sensors. Known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), many of these features, like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping blind spot assist, and rear collision monitoring, come as optional extras.
The rear-view mirror, for example, can be toggled to show the rear camera view to get a better idea of obstacles when reversing or simply to see how close a car is driving up your arse when driving. However, the lack of depth-of-field can be disturbing.
After spending some time zigzagging between cones in the Dynamic Handling Platform area, we took the I-PACE for a drive along the freeway. Accelerating away at the green signal of traffic lights is exhilarating, as you view cars still at stand-still in the rearview mirror. And there’s barely any sound to sense that you’ve hit over 100km/h in just a few seconds. And with 696Nm of instant torque at your disposal, overtaking slow-moving traffic is a breeze.
Arriving back at the Jaguar Land Rover EXPERIENCE home base, Andrew pointed out that the I-PACE had regenerated 3.7kWh of energy during our 26.6km stop-start drive, which is displayed on the console. That’s amazing! Whereas accelerating a fuel-injected V8 from robot to robot penalises you with heavy fuel consumption, the I-PACE credits you for doing the same thing. Bloody marvellous!
The Jaguar I-PACE also comes with a downloadable app, which enables you to interact with I-PACE from your smartphone. You can check your car’s charging status, charge rate, estimated EV range and other indicators at a glance. You can even start the car remotely to cool the interior, before leaving a restaurant, for example.
The I-PACE’s interior space is also worth mentioning. The car doesn’t come with a spare wheel (although it can be added as an optional extra).
It also doesn’t come with run-flat tyres. In the event of irreparable tyre damage, there are two flip-down panels on either side of the ceiling speakers to make a direct call to the Jaguar Assistance team. SOS Emergency Call (the glowing red panel) automatically connects to the emergency response team in a serious incident. They’ll then direct emergency services to your location.
The legroom, both front and back, and the luggage space really impressed me about the I-PACE’s interior. With the back seats folded forward, there are 1.163 litres of dry luggage space in the rear, more than enough to stow your mountain bike. And that, after all, is what an SUV is all about.
Second Life for EV Batteries
The full-chassis length I-PACE battery was developed for durability to match its outstanding performance. The battery comes with an 8-year or 160,000km warranty, during which it maintains a 70% State of Health, meaning that it still has plenty of oomph left over. So, finding a second life for batteries after being removed from vehicles is rather essential.
Jaguar’s engineering team partnered with Pramac to develop a zero-emission energy storage unit powered by second-life Jaguar I-PACE batteries. The “old” batteries are taken from prototype and engineering test vehicles to solve the second life problem. Known as the Off-Grid Battery Energy Storage System (ESS), Pramac’s technology supplies zero-emission power where access to the mains supply is limited or unavailable.
The Future of EV Mobility
In February 2020, Jaguar Land Rover unveiled its Destination Zero journey, offering its vision of an autonomous, electric, connected future for urban mobility. The company’s ambition is to make societies safer, healthier, and cleaner for the environment by focusing on zero emissions, zero accidents, and zero congestion through its products, services, and facilities. Known as Project Vector, its prototype vehicle — a compact, flexible concept car — measures just four metres in length with interior cabin space and seating configurations that allow for private or shared use and even the opportunity for commercial applications, such as last-mile deliveries.
While Jaguar Land Rover’s Project Vector is actively being developed in the UK, it is not likely to be introduced into South Africa anytime soon. Just imagine how South Africa’s taxi industry would react to that! Autonomous taxis? Hai khona!