LONDON Jaguar will leap back on to the world motorsport stage next week with the Indian-owned luxury marque looking to Formula E as a launch pad for the big cat's electric ambitions.
Team director James Barclay says the battery-powered championship, whose third season starts in Hong Kong on Oct. 9, is moving into a "sweet spot" where manufacturers like Jaguar need to be.
"The timing for this programme couldn’t be better because we do have an electric future, we will have electric cars with Jaguar Land Rover in the near future and that’s where we’re at," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I think fairly soon you will start to see the relevance of the race programme to our road programme coming through as well," he added.
"It (Formula E) is a real world laboratory, a test bed for electrification technology. It has a real benefit if you talk about taking learnings from the racetrack and applying to our road cars."
Media reports have indicated that Jaguar Land Rover is preparing to launch a compact electric sports utility vehicle (SUV), with photographs emerging of camouflaged and silent cars in testing.
Electric car prototypes and plans have dominated this week's Paris auto show. Volkswagen pledged in June to achieve annual sales of between two and three million electric cars by 2025.
Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Ralf Speth told Reuters separately that the firm, which built a third of Britain's 1.6 million cars last year, could invest in a new electric battery and car plant in Britain if conditions were right.
Barclay said Formula E would help Jaguar learn about battery performance and heat management in the most demanding conditions.
"There’s some really exciting areas and our engineering team, and our head of engineering Nick Rogers, is incredibly excited about the learnings we will be able to take away from this programme to apply to our future road cars," he said.
"Most major automotive manufacturers now have battery electric vehicles in their future plans and in the near future as well, so it’s kind of moving into the bullseye from our perspective.
"Everyone is going to be promoting their battery electric vehicles in the near future and the formula is perfectly placed to support that."
Jaguar, now owned by India's Tata Motors, join the likes of Renault, Citroen's DS brand, Audi and BMW in the city centre-based championship that visits five continents and includes races in New York for the first time.
Barclay said Jaguar, who left Formula One in failure at the end of 2004, was realistic about what the team could achieve.
"Ultimately we are here to be successful," he said. "We are very measured in our expectations for this year, and then after this year we start building up our expectations."
Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag told Reuters that his series offered more opportunities for technology transfer than others.
"There are lessons you can learn on temperature management of the battery, which is a key element when you are driving an electric car, and in regeneration and recuperation of energy through braking," he said.
"Those are lessons that can be immediately be used in the road cars. And then of course there are the hardware lessons, the motors, the transmission. Things are evolving incredibly fast in those technologies."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)