McLaren has maintained its intention to build an all-electric supercar, but its engineers have been telling Autocar UK more about the scale of the task ahead of them.
“We’ve got a pure EV [electric vehicle] mule and part of the reason for that is to ask how we can deliver driver engagement in a fully electric world,” said Dan Parry-Williams, McLaren’s engineering design director. “But there’s still quite a journey from here to there in terms of our products.”
The biggest issue is still battery technology. “Let’s say you want to drive on track for half an hour,” said Parry-Williams. “If that was an EV, that car would have over 500 miles of [road] EV range, and it would be flat as a pancake at the end. The energy required to do really high performance on track is staggering. And then you have to recharge it.”
The pace of change, though, is promising. “It’s definitely on the up still,” said Parry-Williams, “but which direction is it going? There’s a lot more investment going into energy-dense batteries [which are good for providing long range] rather than power density [necessary to provide supercar levels of performance].”
A full EV is still a way off, then. In the meantime, hybrid McLarens (50% of all McLarens sold by 2022 will have hybrid powertrains) will provide performance without the performance drain. “You can potentially manage [a flat battery] with a niche car,” said Parry- Williams. “If you exhaust the battery but then have to do one recharging lap, that strikes me as being okay. But if you haven’t got an on-board generator [and] you’ve got a full EV, you haven’t got the luxury of doing that.”