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Harry’s Jag – there’s more (and less) than meets the eye

Is there a more quintessentially British scene than the Duke and Duchess of Sussex leaving their wedding ceremony in an E-type Jaguar?

Perhaps no institution more neatly encapsulates the Britain of the past than the royal family, and no car more neatly than the E-type.

But wait – look again. Not only was this a relatively modern couple (by royal family standards), but it was also a thoroughly modern Jag – the E-type Concept Zero. Beneath the bonnet lurks an electric motor, driven by a 40kWh lithium ion battery, designed to fit the old girl just as well as the original XK 3.8 litre six-cylinder petrol engine (4.2 litres in later iterations). Its 220kW propels the car to 100 kilometres an hour in a claimed 5.5 seconds (about a second quicker than the original) and will cover about 270 kilometres between charges.

Of course, there are zero vehicle emissions and none of the oil stains on the garage floor or other reliability issues that so endear old Jags to their owners. It’s to be hoped the roof still leaks and the windows fog up when it rains, just for old time’s sake.

From the outside, to the untrained eye, this Series 1.5 Roadster is very difficult to distinguish from the original. But there are some subtle differences, including the fact that the re-engineered version weighs about 80 kilograms less than the original. Lift the fuel flap and you’ll find a charging socket.

Climb into the cockpit, though, and it’s clearly a different beast from the original. Electronic displays dominate the dashboard, and it even has one of those twiddly rotary multi-media display controls like you find on modern cars. It’s got seatbelts, too, in a further departure from the original.

Drivers of the original iteration of the E-type might miss some of the nuances of the old model. A 1965 Motorsport magazine review of the improved 4.2 litre version brilliantly summarises the original driving experience, and sheds some light on the different attitudes of law enforcement towards drivers back in the day.

While Jaguar says converting cars to electric power gives “a second life to existing vehicles which may be otherwise beyond repair”, it’s also intriguing to consider wider applications of the idea, including those who just are overwhelmed with guilt about burning fossil fuels – although at a reported $530,000 for the conversion, mass-market take-up may be some time off just yet.

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