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2019 March
of the Month

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Car and Driver: McLaren Developing Full-EV Hypercar Concept to See Whether It’s a Good Idea

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2014-McLaren-P1-placement-NEWOne of McLaren’s lesser-noticed announcements at the Geneva auto show is that it is working on an all-electric hypercar concept, one that is aimed at gauging potential demand for a production version.

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We always get a bit confused with McLaren’s three-tier model strategy, which has the Sports Series at the bottom (the 540C, and the 570S and just-launched 570GT), the Super Series in the middle (the 650S and 675LT) and then the so-called Ultimate Series at the top, represented by the now-retired P1 and P1 GTR.

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When we spoke to McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt at Geneva, he confirmed that a true P1 replacement is still a long way off, possibly as much as a decade. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be other Ultimate Series models before then, and the company is keen to see whether a pure-electric model will have enough emotional appeal to justify a limited production run.

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Although the twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that sits, in different guises, at the heart of every McLaren is safe for now, Flewitt admits that he sees electrification as ultimately playing a more significant role than just adding performance to gasoline engines. “I think eventually cylinder count will come down,” Flewitt told us at the show. “I’m not predicting when, but that’s beyond the end of this development cycle. Our powertrain engineers’ vision is that we go from a big powerful engine to, eventually, an EV. And on the journey through there you’ve got a period of hybridization—minimal at first, but then eventually turning the combustion engine into a minority partner.”

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McLaren is set to take another step along that process with the forthcoming ‘P14’ replacement for the existing 650S set to perhaps offer a hybrid powertrain at some point, but the company has also confirmed it is working on a purely electric concept car to both act as a technology champion and gauge demand.

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“The goal here is not to say ‘can we make an electric vehicle?’ Because without being disrespectful to people out there making an electric vehicle, it isn’t that hard; there are fewer components and the packaging is more simple,” he said. “The challenge for us is more simple: Can we make an EV that feels like a P1 GTR? That delivers the same level of excitement? Because if not, it’s the wrong answer for us. We’re genuinely trying to find out what our future is.”
-2016 Geneva Auto Show Full Coverage

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