After the new Jaguar I-PACE had its official unveiling yesterday, The Verge called it a “Model X competitor.” It then went on to compare the two cars point by point, matching them up by battery size, acceleration, range, charging time, price, and how many cup holders each has.
We respectfully disagree. If there are only two all-electric all-wheel-drive SUVs in the universe, of course people are going to compare them to each other. But we feel that rather misses the point. The I-PACE is important not because it finally gives the Tesla Model X a run for its money, but because it will appeal to drivers who might otherwise buy an SUV with an internal combustion engine. That means it represents an important step forward in the transition from gas to electric-powered vehicles.
Wired’s own article about the I-PACE gets a little closer to the heart of things. It says the Jaguar offering ends Tesla’s monopoly of the electric SUV segment of the market, a segment that Tesla created when it introduced the Model X. As our own Zachary Shahan puts it, the I-PACE is aimed at conventional car buyers, not Tesla shoppers. It’s not fighting to split the 1% market share electric cars have worldwide at the moment; it is looking to expand that market share. After all, electric cars still have 99% of the market to shoot for. They don’t need to fight with each other over a tiny sliver of the pie.
For someone looking for an electric SUV, the I-PACE ticks a lot of boxes on their wish list. It is stylish, roomy, rapid, and comes with the cachet of driving a Jaguar. It doesn’t have any weird doors that may or may not function correctly 5 years from now. It has all-wheel drive. It also comes with air suspension as standard. At speeds above 65 mph, the suspension lowers the ride height of the car nearly a half inch to improve aerodynamics. The company says it can get to an 80% state of charge in just 40 minutes using a 100 kW charger. Charging at home using a Level 2 charger takes about 10 hours.
Making the air flow smoothly over the car is especially important for electric cars because wind resistance lowers range. That’s where the I-PACE has another neat trick up its sleeve. Although it has what looks like a conventional grille, there are vanes behind it that can be closed when cooling airflow is not needed, helping to lower wind resistance even more. Keeping exterior dimensions to a minimum also helps in that regard. While the I-PACE has a similar footprint to the more conventional F-PACE, it has more interior room, thanks to there being no need to fit a bulky internal combustion engine into the package.
One other feature of the I-PACE is quite newsworthy. The cars will be able to accept over-the-air software updates just like Teslas do. In an age where cars are becoming more like computers, OTAs can keep cars current with the latest technology improvements without having to visit a local dealer and that’s the rub. According to ArsTechnica, the reason more manufacturers don’t do this, at least in America, is that local laws enacted at the behest of power dealer lobbying groups require that dealers perform any updates. Keep in mind that for many dealers, the majority of their profits come from the service department and they are anxious to protect their revenue stream.
Deliveries of the I-PACE, which will be assembled in Graz, Austria, are expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018. Official prices will be announced shortly after the end of the Geneva auto show but are expected to be within a whisker of those for the Model X.
The I-PACE may not be all things to all people. And that’s a good thing. There’s a reason why every McDonald’s has a Burger King across the street and why we have both Coke and Pepsi to choose from. With the arrival of the I-PACE, those who want to drive an electric SUV will have twice as many choices as they did a short while ago.
Soon other manufacturers will bring their own offerings to market. Hyundai will have its Kona Electric on sale later this year. It’s no Jaguar and doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, but it costs about half as much and can go nearly 300 miles on a single charge. The Kona isn’t either Coke or Pepsi. Maybe it will be more like Dr. Pepper. People love choices and the more choices there are, the more demand for electric vehicles will accelerate. That’s a very good thing.