On Wednesday, I signed an order for a 2019 Jaguar I-PACE, to be delivered in the late autumn. For those who don’t follow the electric-car scene, this is a brand-new no-petroleum product with range and performance in the same range as a Tesla S or X. Since electric cars interest geeks and greens — both over-represented in my readership — and since the Jag is a new thing and contains a lot of technology, I thought I’d do a diary-and-notes series on the car and the experience of getting into the electric-driving space.
Why electric in 2018? · I think we can all agree that we’d like our autos to be as spacious, comfortable, green, and fast as possible within our budget constraints. As of now, electrics are at least as spacious, comfortable, and fast as ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars, but more expensive. They’re greener because, obviously, they don’t burn petroleum distillates.
But the green part isn’t a slam-dunk. An automobile’s carbon load falls into the manufacturing bucket and the running bucket, and these often end up being roughly comparable over the lifetime of the car. So the green thing to do is to keep your car on the road for a long time, and thus inflict the manufacturing carbon on the environment as rarely as possible. Since, at the moment, our family cars average well over ten years in age and both are over-powered gas guzzlers, the green trade-off is OK.
But wait! If you’re living in a place where the electricity is coal-generated, it’s not obvious that exiting petrol lowers your carbon load. Once again, since we’re in the Pacific Northwest where the power is mostly hydroelectric, the greenness accounting looks good.
When I say the accounting is OK, does this mean I've done a detailed quantitative drill-down on the tons of CO2 that are getting into the atmosphere as the consequence of my actions? Nope. Just that the story, in this case, doesn’t suffer from any glaring implausibilities.
Why Jaguar? · My electric-car shopping has an extra constraint: Since I live in Vancouver and work for Amazon, anything I buy has to be able to take me to Seattle (226km), no doubt allowed whatsoever that it’ll get there on a charge. Up until recently, that meant Tesla. While I admire Tesla’s boldness and engineering skill, I find the cars, as design statements, blankly cautious. Model 3’s have started appearing in my neighborhood and they’re just hideous inside. Also, Teslas seem overpriced. Also, every geek I know who’s inclined to electric already has one. Also, I’ve enriched enough Paypal founders already.
The picture improved a bit with the recent arrival of the Chevy Bolt, which seems like a nice practical little car. On the other hand, reviewers say that many people find the seats violently uncomfortable.
Now, the I-PACE… aargh, that dorky all-caps name hurts my brain; from here on in I’ll just say “the Jag”. Its range and performance are similar to a Tesla S or X. I think it looks way cooler. It’s significantly cheaper, too. There’s a console with knobs you can spin and a data-rich dashboard behind the wheel. I’ll do another post digging deep into the car, which I’ve been researching pretty extensively.
Why now? · That’s a good question. Both of our 10-plus-year-old vehicles still run OK (although I don’t trust the one I usually drive enough for the Seattle trip). Buying an electric car now creates the same kind of fear you got buying a PC in the Nineties: If I wait six months, will there be something better?
Except that here’s where emotion enters into it. I’ve wanted an electric for a few years now, and have been frustrated that on my internal Venn diagram, the “I like it” circle didn’t intersect the “Can reach Seattle” circle. Second, when I was a little kid growing up in the Sixties, the Jaguars were the most beautiful cars in the world. I wasn’t car-centric then and I’m still not now, but I can remember thinking “Wow, that’s a great-looking car. When I grow up, I’m going to have a Jaguar!”
Well, I’m grown up. More than that, I’m getting kind of old. Who knows if there’ll be a tomorrow? I don’t feel like waiting, I feel like driving a great-looking super-fast electric Jag. So I put down a refundable deposit when the I-PACE news broke in March, signed the paperwork this week, and got an order number.
Next · First, the product launch was a marketing masterpiece, worth covering. Next, I’ll write what we know so far about the car. Then, I’ll offer opinions about how to order. I think electric-car politics are worth a few words too. Also, I’ve started to find out about the e-vehicle owner subculture that’s springing up. Then eventually later this year, I’ll report on actually owning the thing.