Jaguar launches electric I-Pace

The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace was launched in South Africa at the end of February and the Mail & Guardian was in attendance at the Johannesburg event. Customers who pre-ordered the premium electric vehicle, which starts at R1.68-million, will take delivery on March 15. According to the company, its 2019 allocation has been sold out.

The I-Pace is powered by a 90kWh Lithium-ion battery that delivers a range of up to 470km from a single charge. Driving around Johannesburg in a fully charged vehicle with the air-conditioner on full-blast showed an estimated range of 256km, but once switched off, the range instantly shot up to 426km.

It is possible to extend the range on the I-Pace with regenerative braking, which is referred to as one-pedal driving without actually hitting the brakes. It entails removing your foot from the accelerator, which slows the car down significantly; in the process, you use the car’s kinetic energy from its forward motion to charge the battery.

This is displayed on the large infotainment touch-screen display kitted out on the I-Pace; when the vehicle draws power, it shows up in blue arrows, but when it’s recharging, it’s green. This can be found under the My EV setting on the main menu.

The I-Pace has a regenerative braking setting for both high and low speeds, and, having tested both, the former is quite aggressive and slows the car down sooner than the low setting. Getting the timing right comes down to practice. The high setting seems to be more suited for commuting in a city, and the low for cruising on the highway.

There are various driving modes than can be selected, such as dynamic; comfort; rain, ice and snow; and eco mode, which preserves the range by making changes to the cabin temperature, air circulation and other features. If charged overnight, it’s unlikely that one will run out of power on a daily commute.

Driving an electric car is a completely different experience, most notably when switching on the vehicle, as electric motors are silent. EVs are also known to deliver instant torque, and with the I-Pace capable of going from 0-100kmh in 4.8 seconds — we had to keep this in mind while driving on Johannesburg’s roads during rush hour. It has a total output of 294kW, and 696Nm of torque, with the maximum available at zero rpm.

The I-Pace proved it could handle any terrain in Gauteng, both on- and off-road, including crossing the Jukskei River with ease. I took the vehicle through a 4×4 course, located within Jaguar Land Rover’s new experience centre in Lonehill, and, as impressive as its capabilities were, I felt this isn’t a car I would want to take off-road. It is more suited for commuting in Johannesburg’s daily traffic.

Alongside the electric SUV, Jaguar has also launched its R30-million rapid public charging network across the country, in partnership with GridCars, which is open to all EVs in South Africa.

The rollout includes 82 public charging stations nationwide, of which 52 will form part of the “Jaguar Powerway” that will enable long-distance travel on the N1, N2 and N3 without having to worry about a flat battery.

The intercity network and public charging stations at dealerships and shopping centres will have combination AC/DC chargers at major hubs in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.

Jaguar’s 82 public charging stations puts it in the lead when it comes to local infrastructure rollout. Since its i3 launch in 2015, BMW is sitting at a total of 57 charging stations at dealerships in the country, five of which are DC chargers.

An AC charger (22kW) will take an I-Pace from 0-80% in two-and-a-half hours, and a DC charger (60kW) is capable of doing the same in 72 minutes. Home chargers (7.4kW) are available separately for R30 000, and require just under 13 hours to deliver a full charge, typically overnight.

All Jaguar customers will be provided with an RFID charging card that is required to activate and end a charging session, thus making it tamper-proof. The company will also cover 25% of its customer’s total charging costs.

Dr Martyn Davies, managing director of emerging markets and Africa at Deloitte, says that Jaguar’s roll-out of infrastructure is an interesting development from a single private original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the absence of state-installed infrastructure. “The challenge is to increase its utilisation by introducing mass market vehicles that are more affordable for consumers.”

For the successful adoption of EVs, a new, co-ordinated, supportive ecosystem is required, says Davies. “This needs charging infrastructure, government subsidies of purchases, environmental compliance regulations, CBD congestion charging (with EVs enjoying no charge) and a reliable power supply.

“Naturally, BMW, Nissan, and now Jaguar would like to see the 25% import duties on electric cars reduced, and replaced with subsidies favouring EV purchases,” continues Davies.

“South Africa is out of kilter with other countries in incentivising buyers of EV vehicles. Perhaps the greatest success story so far is China, which has created a wider supportive ecosystem for EVs. This resulted in over 1.1-million EVs being sold in China in 2018.”

“There are only three full EV model cars in the local marketplace, all of which are to be considered premium products, which limits consumer choice.”

EVs are currently appealing to a niche market and early adopters, and I think the real game-changer in the medium term could be importing cheap Chinese EV cars; there are over 1 000 producers in China.

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