A McLaren electric car could challenge the world’s most powerful machines

McLaren electric car

McLaren is adopting electrification faster than its rivals from Italy and Germany — and we’re not talking about plastic kiddy cars. Executives have announced concrete plans to go hybrid in just a few short years, and a recent report coming out of England suggests we’ll see a McLaren electric car sooner rather than later.

The project began as a way to gain valuable knowledge about battery-powered drivetrains, according to British magazine Autocar. It was launched strictly to build a prototype that could be tested in a wide variety of weather and road conditions to find out how major components like the electric motor and the battery pack perform. The knowledge gained was to be channeled back to the company’s research and development department and applied to future hybrid cars.

The yet-unnamed electric car has evolved from a prototype to a limited-edition model. Just five examples will be manufactured initially, though more will come later, and they will be put in the hands of some of the brand’s most loyal customers so they can be tested in real-world conditions. McLaren hasn’t specified how it will pick the five lucky drivers, but we’re willing to bet they already know they’re going to be selected. They’re customers who are intimately familiar with the company’s unique breed of super-sport cars, from the F1 to the newest 720S.

Autocar learned the electric McLaren could benefit from a groundbreaking new advance in battery technology currently being developed for Formula E cars. If all goes according to plan, the battery pack will allow Formula E cars to complete an entire race without needing to plug in. It’s this kind of technology that can make an electric supercar feasible. The model will need to rely extensively on lightweight materials like carbon fiber in order to offset the weight of the pack, but McLaren’s expertise in composites is vast and well known. It’s not a company known for compromise; its electric model will be part of the Ultimate Series, and it will perform like the vaunted 675LT.

The sold-out P1 shows McLaren already knows how to incorporate electrification into a car that’s fast and extremely powerful, so it will be interesting to see how those traits carry over to a model not equipped with an internal combustion engine. We’ll get an early taste of it when the BP23 three-seater arrives in 2019 with a gasoline-electric powertrain built around a twin-turbocharged V8 engine.