One of our alert readers pointed out that last week’s piece on the likelihood of green supercars missed one that was just launched, the Jaguar C-X75. This is no ordinary rich man’s toy — it’s a super-sleek plug-in hybrid that can reach 200 mph but emit just 99 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. The zero to 60? Less than three seconds. A sheep in wolf’s clothing, you might say. The minor drawback: A million-dollar price tag. It’s a candidate for my “World’s Most Expensive Cars” list.
For the uninitiated, a plug-in hybrid is like a standard hybrid on steroids. It does what, say, a Prius does in enhancing range, but it will also run for up to 50 miles on the batteries alone (the Prius can handle about one mile). The Jaguar, with two electric motors and a supercharged 1.6-liter gas engine (the show car version actually uses two microturbines) can manage more than 30 miles on the batteries.
The Jaguar, which benefits from an alliance with the Williams F1 race team, is a tour de force, no doubt about it. It joins the $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder in a very exclusive club — mega-buck high-performance plug-in hybrids built in limited editions as image enhancers. They plan to build only 250 C-X75s, and — this is cute — 918 of the Porsche Spyders, which went on sale in late March. If you act soon, you get a second Porsche as a dinghy.
Since there will be very few of these cars — and their owners probably won’t drive them much — their overall contribution to saving the planet is likely to be limited. But they’re pretty cool anyway, and line the companies up for making more affordable plug-in hybrids.
With that in mind I asked Jaguar spokesman Stuart Schorr if the company had cheaper plug-in hybrids for the masses (or at least the masses of Jaguar buyers) in the pipeline. “We have announced our plans to build 250 units of a very advanced electric supercar,” he said. “There are no plans beyond that.” Party pooper!
According to Schorr, the C-X75 will have three modes: full electric, and with the gas engine either partly supplementing the electric motors or fully engaged. The motors, he said, are at each axle to help deliver all-wheel drive.
The Jaguar and the equally state-of-the-art Porsche resemble upscale versions of the Fisker Karma, another high-performance plug-in hybrid (a mere $96,850) that will meet customers this summer. I called Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher, and he made this comparison: "Obviously we applaud Jaguar’s faith in the future technology drivetrain. We at Fisker believe that an EV with extended range gives the customer the choice of uncompromised responsible luxury. But there is a huge difference between a limited run of 250 $1 million supercars and an annual global production run of 15,000 units when we reach full ramp up [with the Karma]. This just goes to show what amazing value for money the Fisker Karma really is!"
The 403-horsepower Karma is built in Finland, and isn’t quite as crazed in its specs as the Jag. But 60 mph comes up in less than six seconds, heading toward a top speed of 125 mph. But it averages a combined 67 mpg and just 83 grams of CO2 per kilometer. I haven’t had the pleasure of driving one, though I’ve sat in plenty.
I was shocked to see a news report out of Japan this week claiming that all Toyota Priuses (yes, all of them) will be plug-in hybrids by 2014. Toyota later denied the story, and the company has had a complicated relationship with the technology, anyway. It’s coming out with a $33,000 plug-in Prius next year, but some factions of the company deride the whole idea of plug-in hybrids.
There probably wouldn’t be any plug-in hybrids were it not for the tireless advocacy of Felix Kramer of CalCars.org. He welcomes the new Jaguar to the family. “Automakers that choose electric motors to boost performance are also shifting away from fossil fuels and helping to reduce costs for transportation electrification,” he said. “So they get the world’s thanks for being “incidentally green.”
Here’s the Jag on video: