Newly-unleashed Jaguar set to join the hunt for Formula E success

by James Bowers

Jaguar Panasonic Racing have lifted the lid on their latest all-electric race car, the I-Type 4. Sporting a fresh new take on Jaguar’s modern livery design, the team have been hard at work in the off-season to make sure the car goes as well as it looks.

Heading into their fourth season of the FIA Formula E Championship, every effort has been made to ensure that this car is their most competitive to date. The team has made progress in each year of its existence, but the pressure is now on to consolidate themselves as one of Formula E’s top performers.

Featuring nine hundred new components, the I-Type 4 is a major evolution of its predecessor. One of the most eye-catching upgrades is the powertrain, with this year’s motor, gearbox and inverter being the lightest and most efficient that Jaguar have ever produced.

It’s not just sheer power that’s been the focus of attention though, with significant developments being made to the car’s weight distribution and rear suspension. A lower centre of gravity should equal better handling on the tight and twisty street courses that Formula E is known for, while the updated suspension system should reduce tyre wear and give the drivers more grip to make use of.

Albeit as striking as ever, plenty of work has gone into changing key components of the rear of the car.
Image Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

A relationship with heritage based in the 24 Hour races of Le Mans and Daytona is also set to be renewed as part of the I-Type 4 project. Automotive lubricant giant, Castrol, has reacquainted itself with Jaguar as a major sponsor once again. At first, it may seem odd that a company with such close ties to the oil industry would want to be associated with the electric vehicle movement. But, once you scratch through the surface, everything starts to seem much more rational.

It’s not just car manufacturers which have to keep up with today’s environmental demands. Companies such as Castrol must also innovate, else they risk being left behind in an economy that will gradually phase out over time. So, to get around this, Castrol have embarked on developing a new range of “e-fluids”, which are designed to optimise the performance and efficiency of electric battery-powered vehicles. These will be used in the I-Type 4, with the aim of applying them to current and future road-going electric Jaguar models.

Beyond the car’s physical structure, Jaguar has also developed a new vehicle control module. Due to the nature of electric powertrains, software development is just as important as the hardware that connects it all together. The innovative unit featured in the I-Type 4 should allow for increased processing capacity, and is expected to open the door to a more accelerated software development curve.

It may not be the most glamorous part of Jaguar’s evolution, but for JLR’s 13,000 engineers, it’s certainly one of the most exciting as the brand continues to make strides in the electric road car market.

After all, Formula E is just one element of Jaguar’s current mission, which they are calling “The Road to Destination Zero”. No, that isn’t the title of a new sci-fi film, but instead refers to a vision that comprises of three key elements – zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion.

Everything learnt in Formula E will ultimately make its way to the DNA of Jaguar’s road-going electric cars.
Image Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

They’re lofty ambitions, it must be said, but the development work taking place within it’s Formula E team ensures that Jaguar is well on its way to achieving the first of its goals. Technology harnessed from motorsport and implanted into the I-Pace SUV has proven that Jaguar can be a success in the electric car market, while the premium XJ saloon has been earmarked as the next model to ditch its direct carbon emissions.

The company is already reaping the rewards of its development work in the road-going electric vehicle sector, but Jaguar is yet to really assert its dominance in the FIA Formula E Championship. Last year saw Mitch Evans take the brand’s first international race victory since the early nineties, so the team is certainly headed in the right direction.

Now though, the time has come for Jaguar to combine its unquestioned one-lap pace with the ultimate consistency you need to win titles. The likes of Audi, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, to name just a few, won’t make it easy for them. And while the iconic British team is aware of the difficult challenge that lies ahead, there’s certainly an air of optimism amongst everyone involved in the project.

For Jaguar, it feels as though the sky really is the limit, but in an environment as competitive as Formula E, the team will have to work harder than ever to ensure that they don’t come falling back down to reality.

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