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Frankfurt show: Jag designer Callum’s electric optimism

Job done: Jaguar design director Sir Ian Callum considers the E-Pace mid-size SUV as the last fully combustion-powered car to leave his drawing board.

Ian Callum has already designed Jaguar's ‘last full internal combustion car’

Jaguar logo13 Sep 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

FOR a self-confessed petrol-head with four V8-powered cars and at least one V12 in his personal garage, Jaguar design director Ian Callum is surprisingly cheerful about his employer’s commitment to electrify every new model from 2020.

“I’m very excited about it and I’ve probably designed my last full IC- (internal combustion) engined car,” quipped Mr Callum when GoAuto spoke with him at the Frankfurt motor show this week.

“It could be that one, actually,” he said, gesturing to a nearby E-Pace medium SUV on Jaguar’s Frankfurt show stand. “It’s a challenging time.”

Mr Callum eliminated the idea of a battery-powered sub-XE compact model arriving any time soon, leaving the replacement for Jaguar’s ageing X351 XJ limousine flagship as most likely the next recipient of electrified drivetrains after the all-electric i-Pace crossover launches next year.

As a designer, he described the freedom of not having to create a shape around the constraints of a conventional drivetrain as “excellent”.

“You can take the freedom one way or another, you can design conventional cars with more space in the front for luggage or you can use the space for occupants, which is what we decided to do with i-Pace,” he said.

“The freedoms will vary when we do more hybrids where the engine will still be there, so that revolution in shape will not happen as quickly as this one (i-Pace) but eventually we will come up with more electric cars that will accommodate more space inside.”

Mr Callum was unconcerned about the potential for silent electric cars to be sterile and boring.

“We’re working on a few electric cars at the moment and I think there’s going to be no lack of emotion,” he said.

“I’m a great petrol-head, I’ve got three V8s in my car line-up at the moment – if you include the F-Type I’ve got four, and a V12 – but for me personally, there’s room for both.”

Describing his experience from a day behind the wheel of an i-Pace as “very serene, surreal and relaxing,” Mr Callum admitted to finding his first subsequent journey in combustion-powered car “quite crude” and “like feeling you’re a generation away”.

Asked how much Jaguar’s upcoming products will envision the future and influence his design decisions, Mr Callum said the majority of his work was still “just to design the vehicle”.

“But we’re certainly involved in how the future world will look and how these cars are going to be used, whether by individuals or a number of people,” he added.

“The big thing we’ve got now is all the car companies have to do their bit … we have to encourage governments, local authorities or whatever they are to put infrastructure in to accommodate electric usage.”

In addition to the need to build charging infrastructure, Mr Callum was also concerned that the electricity generation and distribution networks might not evolve quickly enough for when sales momentum of electrified cars takes off.

“A huge change is coming and it’s not just the car industry that is going to have to cope with it,” he said.

“The car world is not just an entity on its own, it has to work hand-in-hand for so many reasons, with so many functions around the world, and this integration is going to make or break what we are doing.

“There’s so much of it that we just don’t know yet and the jury’s still out on so many elements of how it’s going to pan out and everybody is second-guessing or waiting to see who is going to do what.

“But rest assured that electric cars are going to happen, so let’s just get on with it.”

Judging from his optimism, Mr Callum will do so with a smile.

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