Skip to main content

McLaren is testing an electric car, but a production version is a long way off

2017 McLaren 570GT review
Andrew Hard/Digital Trends
McLaren is testing a prototype electric car, but a production model may be a long way off. The British automaker sees potential in an all-electric supercar, but believes the concept still faces many challenges.

“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,” Dan Parry-Williams, McLaren’s engineering design director, said in an interview with Autocar. “But there’s still quite a journey from here to there in terms of our products.”

The main obstacle is batteries. An electric car that could drive 500 miles on the road would drain its battery pack after just a half hour of track driving, Parry-Williams said. Driving at sustained high speeds on a track is something battery developers really haven’t addressed, he said.

“There’s a lot more investment going into energy-dense batteries rather than power density,” Parry-Williams said. Greater energy density means more energy can be stored in a given volume, meaning an electric car can get more range without physically making the battery pack larger. But McLaren needs power-dense batteries that can deliver electricity to a car’s motor (or motors) faster, allowing for better performance.

McLaren’s ongoing tests of a prototype electric car at least show that the company is working on the problem. It may also employ lessons learned from the Formula E race series on future batteries. McLaren will begin supplying batteries to Formula E next year. Crucially, these new batteries will last an entire race, which isn’t the case now. Drivers switch cars partway through. Part of the impetus for Formula E was to create a testing ground for electric-car tech, so perhaps racing will help improve batteries for McLaren road cars.

Meanwhile, McLaren plans to sell more hybrids. So far, the automaker’s only production hybrid has been the ultra-rare P1. That car’s successor, code-named BP23, is also expected to use a hybrid powertrain. But by 2022, McLaren expects half the cars it sells to be hybrids. That means we can expect hybrid powertrains to show up in more mainstream (if you can all any six-figure supercar mainstream) McLaren models over the next five years.

Editors' Recommendations

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
Check out Spectre, Rolls-Royce’s first all-electric car
Rolls-Royce's Spectre, its first all-electric vehicle.

Rolls-Royce Introduces Spectre: The World's First Ultra-Luxury Electric Super Coupé

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has taken the wraps off the Spectre, its first all-electric vehicle.

Read more
How do electric cars work? EV motors and batteries explained
Electric GT e-Crate Motor Tesla battery

Electric vehicles function in fundamentally different ways than traditional cars. Internal combustion engines have loads of moving parts, and while EVs have their own complexities, they're much more digital than mechanical. Let's take a closer look at exactly how electric vehicles work.
How does an EV battery pack work?
Instead of gasoline, EVs derive their power from a battery pack, which usually stretches along the underside of the car to keep the weight as low as possible. It's composed of multiple modules, which are in turn broken down into individual battery cells, similar in size to AA batteries. A layer of coolant runs between cells since hot batteries are explodey batteries. A battery management system regulates that coolant and ensures that each cell drains at the same rate, which prolongs the life of the pack.


Read more
Jeep built a monster electric prototype to show what EVs can really do off-road
Front three quarter view of the Jeep Magneto 2.0 EV concept

Few cars live in the past like the Jeep Wrangler, which exists to carry on the spirit of the original military Jeep that debuted 81 years ago. So you know Jeep is serious about electrification when it rolls out a Wrangler EV concept.

Unveiled at the 2022 Easter Jeep Safari, a massive annual gathering of off-road enthusiasts held in Moab, Utah, the blue and white Magneto 2.0 concept is, as the name suggests, Jeep’s second attempt at an electric Wrangler. The original Magneto concept was just a way to test the waters -- now Jeep is diving in.

Read more