BIRMINGHAM, England -- Car buyers continue to shun full-electric cars but that could change with the next generation of battery technology, Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth said.
“Customers are not impressed with it currently,” he told the Automotive News Europe Congress here.
“Battery technology today is still too heavy, too expensive and the [power] density is too low,” he told Automotive News Europe following his keynote speech at the event. “As we learned at school, there's this correlation between mass and energy and as long as this is not favorable, even if you recuperate, this is an issue.”
Speth's comments come as Tesla Motors prepares to start deliveries of its Model X battery-electric SUV in three or four months. Meanwhile, sources within JLR's premium rival Audi recently said the Volkswagen Group subsidiary would launch a battery-electric SUV by 2018 and the German media reported last week that BMW is also working on a model to rival the Model X.
Land Rover is working on alternative drivetrains and has produced a prototype electric Range Rover Evoque, dubbed the Project Evoque E, which is expected to be shown off as a more developed concept in the coming months.
Speth said the drawbacks of the current technology would be alleviated in the midterm, without giving a timetable for the improvements. “The next generation of batteries will be higher density, lower weight and the cost will come down,” he said.
He told the Congress that lowering emissions was a “priority” and warned that automakers risked turning off the new generation of customers if they didn't address environmental concerns. “They feel the car industry doesn't understand them any more,” he said.
He added that JLR has invested heavily in future technologies, quadrupling its r&d budget and doubling the number of engineers to 8,000 since parent Tata Motors bought the company from Ford Motor Co. seven years ago.
Company executives have previously said JLR wants to double current sales to about 800,000 by 2020, but Speth declined to provide a volume target or a deadline. He did say that the automaker wants to fill the “white space” in the Jaguar and Land Rover product ranges to help achieve growth. To meet higher global demand, JLR opened its first factory in China last year and will add a plant in Brazil. Speth has previously said the company would build a plant in the U.S., but he declined to provide further details when asked at the Congress.