McLaren starts work on fully electric prototype

McLaren P1 EV

McLaren’s plans to develop a one-off electric vehicle prototype are progressing, with company CEO Mike Flewitt revealing more details about the – as yet un-named – vehicle.

Speaking at his company’s financial results announcement, Flewitt revealed that McLaren had commenced discussions with a number of electric motor and battery manufacturers, with a view to sealing supply deals.

Flewitt also announced that the prototype will take its cue from an existing McLaren platform. “We’ll build [the EV prototype] into an existing architecture; it may even end up being the 12C architecture initially, maybe with a conventional suspension system, because we want to learn step-by-step.”

Mclaren -p 1_full _eco _powertrainiThe plan – first announced back in March at the Geneva Motor Show – is to follow the first prototype with a limited run of EVs to gauge reaction among McLaren’s wealthy clientele. “We’ll put it out there and see how customers use the car,” Flewitt told us. “If you take the car out onto the track, for example, even with a power dense battery then you’ll drain it in no time.”

Flewitt was also aware that part of McLaren’s strength was the attraction of its engine noise, and that the significantly quieter electric motors presented engineers with a significant challenge.

“One of things we debate all the time in-house is the noise and vibration,” said Flewitt. “With our cars we tune noise – we don’t just try to obliterate it. If you’ve driven a 650S and a [McLaren] 675LT back-to-back, one of the things that communicates the difference – even at fairly low speed – is a little more vibration that comes through in the 675 from the way the engine is mounted in the car. Little things like that can be very important, but they all vanish when you remove the engine.”

Mc Laren -P1-2014-1600-40Flewitt went on to say that he was opposed to adding a simulated engine-noise for McLaren’s EV via the car’s audio system – as other manufacturers have opted for in their EV designs. “From a personal perspective I don’t like fakery, I want it to be authentic [and] so what I’d love to do is create characteristics that are equally compelling. We won’t end up having a music system playing the noise of a V8 when you’re driving on batteries. That would be crap.”

While we’ve previously learned that McLaren is working on smaller powerplants – which we reckon will be a V6 spun from the same architecture as the existing V8 – Flewitt also dropped a chunky hint that new engines will come packaged with a hybrid system. “Yeah, we’ll continue to downsize,” he said. “We’ve got to address emissions because markets are putting ever more pressure on us. We would design something with the capability to integrate hybrid in an efficient way, rather than being a bolt-on system. It’s integrated from day one; that’s the focus.”

McLaren has said that half the models it will produce by 2022 will be hybrids, and the betting is that the new six-cylinder engine is likely to have its first outing in either the mid-term facelifted Sports Series or one of the son-of-650S ‘P14’ variants that will start being launched next year. 

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