World-renowned McLaren Automotive has produced some of the best-looking and highest-performing supercars of this decade. The company, formed in 2010 to absorb McLaren Cars (which has been around since 1985), finds its high-octane inspiration in the racing career of the late Bruce Mclaren. Since McLaren was burning down the track, winning the 1959 US Grand Prix, and the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, McLaren’s cars have been fossil fuel beasts. Putting out high horsepower, boasting sleek aerodynamic curves, and handling equally well on the road or the track, these sports cars and supercars are on the same level as Saleen, Lamborghini, and a few other top-tier manufacturers.
However, the next vehicle that McLaren produces could very well be their first car that is a purely electric vehicle. In the world of the Tesla Roadster, the Lamborghini Terzo Millenio, and the NextEV NIO EP9, McLaren needs to make a move towards their own EV. The market, especially with diminishing fossil fuel supplies and the subsequent higher prices, could use a product that can show the viability of a fully-electric vehicle in both normal driving and sports situations.
Engineers from McLaren have confirmed that they are indeed testing an early prototype of their future EV supercar. Any photos of the car itself have not yet been released, but concept art shows a sleek, low-sitting supercar in the traditional McLaren style. The engineers’ first problem to tackle was how they could create driver engagement in an electric vehicle. McLaren vehicles are known for their great road response, awesome take-offs, and the characteristic roar of their 12-cylinder motors. However, electric cars are quite silent – and most auto enthusiasts agree that the sound of a motor is an essential part of the vehicle experience.
However, you have to keep in mind that McLaren vehicles are top-of-the-line cars, and will be fun to drive regardless of their particular powerplant. Speaking of which, the main obstacle to the release of the McLaren is the batteries. Supercar performance requires a lot of juice, and that means lower ranges on the track. Plus, the battery will still need to be recharged. However, the McLaren engineers are not yet discouraged. The director of their design department, Dan Parry-Williams, is enthusiastic about the rise in prominence of new battery designs and related engineering. However, he does express some concern over the fact that more money is being invested into energy-dense batteries rather than power-dense batteries.
An energy-dense battery simply means that it is good for providing long range. This is a good thing for most electric cars on the market – you will be able to drive longer and further without stopping for a charge. On the other hand, these batteries cannot produce enough overall power to provide supercar levels of performance. McLaren would have to commission or design a battery that is both power- and energy-dense in order to create a fully electric supercar that is capable of long-term track performance. On the other hand, Parry-Williams and his team have been using hybrid designs in their cars for quite some time. The presence of an on-board generator (and a gasoline engine) means that even if the battery is exhausted, the racer can do a recharging lap.
With a fully-electric supercar, there is no possibility of a recharging lap at all. This poses a serious design problem that will need to be overcome with some creative engineering solutions. However, the guys over at McLaren have a serious talent for designing top-of-the-line vehicles. It might take them a few years, but they will come up with a fully-electric design that has a long range without sacrificing track performance.
With the electric vehicles already released, plus the upcoming Porsche Mission E (set for release in 2019), McLaren will be heading into a market that will already be fairly saturated. After all, there is a limited number of customers who will be looking to purchase an electric supercar. Hopefully, the age-old McLaren engineering will pull through.
The British supercar manufacturer needs to be at the top of their game when they release their new car. Without stylish looks, considerable performance, and a high-tech racing cabin – as each of their competitors has – their supercar may be left in the dust. But if we know them, they will deliver a top-tier racing machine, and it’ll be luxurious to boot.