Alongside the Porsche 918 Spyder, the McLaren P1 ushered in the era of the hybrid hypercar. At a time when people associated “hybrid” with the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt, the P1 proved that electrification doesn’t require sacrifices to performance. Now, the automaker is considering an all-electric supercar, although a potential production version won’t arrive for some time.
McLaren is currently testing the waters with an EV prototype, McLaren engineering design director Dan Parry-Williams confirmed to Autocar. “We’ve got a pure EV mule and part of the reason for that is to ask how we can deliver driver engagement in a fully electric world,” he said. “But there’s still quite a journey from here to there in terms of our products.”
McLaren confirmed in its six-year plan last year that an all-electric drivetrain was in development, and we last heard the automaker was preparing an EV for launch by 2020. The report said that the new model wouldn’t replace the P1 but would slot just underneath that supercar, carrying a price tag below $1 million.
McLaren faces plenty of obstacles when it comes to building an EV supercar, Parry-Williams lamented. Battery technology remains a key issue. “Let’s say you want to drive on track for half an hour. If that was an EV, that car would have over 500 miles of [road] EV range, and it would be flat as a pancake at the end,“ he noted. “The energy required to do really high performance on track is staggering. And then you have to recharge it.” Parry-Williams also said the industry is investing more heavily in batteries that accommodate long ranges rather than batteries that deliver the power density required for high-performance supercars.
For now, McLaren seems content with internal-combustion engines. It just introduced the Senna, which delivers 789 hp from its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. By 2022, however, McLaren aims for half of its new cars to feature hybrid technology.