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Geneva show: Morgan unveils EV concept

Watts up: Morgan is looking at how it can combine its old-fashioned design philosophy with electric propulsion systems of the future.

1940s styling mixes with 21st Century EV technology in Morgan’s Plus E concept

8 Mar 2012

MORGAN may appear to be a staunchly traditionalist car-maker but it was proved to be moving with the times at this week’s Geneva motor show when it unveiled an electric car fitted with a five-speed manual transmission.

The company has also announced standard trim upgrades and pricing for its MY2012 Classic range in Australia.

Visually indistinguishable from the classically styled, aluminium-bodied, BMW V8-powered Plus 8 that also debuted at Geneva, the battery-powered Plus E was shown as a concept to test public reaction.

A development of the car could enter production if there is enough demand.

Most electric vehicles do away with a multi-speed transmission as the full torque of an electric motor is available from zero revs, and they have a wider operating range of revs than an internal combustion engine.

However, Zytek Automotive, the British electric propulsion specialist behind the Plus E’s drivetrain, claims the use of a five-speed transmission improves energy efficiency.

Zytek Automotive managing director Neil Heslington said the multi-speed transmission enables the electric motor to “spend more time operating in its sweet spot, where it uses energy more efficiently, particularly at high road speeds”.

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“It also allows us to provide lower gearing for rapid acceleration and will make the car more engaging for keen drivers.”

The conventional five-speed manual transmission is connected to the motor via a clutch for use when changing gears, but, because the 300Nm of torque is instantly available, the driver can pull away from standstill without using the clutch and can leave the car in one ratio to be driven like an automatic.

Morgan’s EV program with Zytek was part-funded by a £100,000 ($A148,000) grant from the British government and the Geneva concept will be used as a “preliminary engineering assessment”, with a second, more production-oriented version planned.

Whereas the Geneva show car uses a manual transmission and lithium-ion batteries, the next is likely to feature alternative battery technologies and a sequential transmission.

No power figure is quoted, but the motor, located in the transmission tunnel, is a development of Zytek’s 70kW unit and the company has electric drivetrains of 100kW and more in the pipeline.

It may not sound all that powerful, but Morgan claims the 1250kg Plus E can do 0-100km/h in around six seconds on the way to a 185km/h top speed, and has a 190km battery range – 30km more than a Nissan Leaf.

Morgan operations director Steve Morris said the Plus E was built because the company “wanted to see how much fun you can have in an electric sportscar”.

“The superb capability of the finished car reflects the passion with which the Zytek team has applied their considerable expertise,” he said.

“The project is a true collaboration aimed at delivering as much driving pleasure as possible in a zero emissions vehicle.”

In addition to the electric Plus E and BMW-powered Plus 8, Morgan also used the Geneva show to debut a coupe version of the Aero and a more potent 3.7-litre Roadster.

All three of the Geneva production cars are on the agenda for Australia, with Australian Design Rule (ADR) compliance now underway, and first deliveries are expected in the second half of this year.

The local importer is trying to get Australian Design Rule approval for Morgan’s born-again Three-Wheeler, for which it has 800 deposit-paid orders worldwide and 134 expressions of interest from Australia.

Until they arrive, Morgan’s Australian line-up has been simplified for 2012 with the Sport variant’s aesthetic modifications and uprated sports seats becoming standard across the Classic range, resulting in a $4400 price rise for the 1.6-litre 4/4 entry model to $72,600 (plus on-road costs).

The 2.0-litre Plus 4 remains at $89,910 and the Roadster, now with the 209kW 3.7-litre Ford V6 engine, is priced at $129,900, with both models now available with an optional starter button.

New options include heated seats and footwell lighting.

Morgan achieved its first double-digit Australian sales figure last year, with 20 cars registered.

Morgan Classicpricing (plus on-road costs):
Plus 4 $89,910
Roadster $129,900

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