Morgan Plus E marries new technology with old school styling

Morgan Plus ESome say that electric cars are the future, and their designers seem to agree. Cars like the Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi I, and Nissan Leaf are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible and to look like nothing else on the road today. These cars let savvy EV drivers show that they are ahead of the curve, but what about those that are behind it? What if you want zero-emission driving with classic styling?

Luckily, British sports car company Morgan has the answer. Morgan recently unveiled the Plus E, an electric car with styling from the 1950s, at the Geneva Motor Show. The Plus E is an electric version of Morgan’s Plus 8, a traditional British sports car whose styling has been unchanged since the Eisenhower administration.

“We wanted to see how much fun you can have in an electric sports car, so we have built one to help us find out,” said Morgan operations director Steve Morris. He said the electric motor’s abundant torque will make the Plus E fantastic to drive.

Instead of the Plus 8’s BMW V8, the Plus E has a 94 hp Zytek electric motor, which is mounted in the transmission tunnel. Under the side-opening bonnet is a lithium ion battery pack, and in between is a five-speed manual transmission, complete with a clutch. Electric motors usually don’t require a clutch since they produce all of their power at zero rpm. Tesla had trouble getting a two-speed transmission to handle the torque of its Roadster, and Morgan actually had to take one gear out of the Plus 8’s six-speed for the Plus E.

All of this makes for an interesting alternative to “clutch-less manual” gearboxes: thanks to the motor’s torque, the driver can leave the clutch engaged like an automatic, or shift manually. According to Zytek managing director Neil Heslington, “a multi-speed transmission allows the motor to spend more time operating in its sweet spot, where it uses energy more efficiently, particularly at high road speeds. It also allows us to provide lower gearing for rapid acceleration and will make the car more engaging for keen drivers.”

Morgan says the Plus E will be used for “preliminary engineering assessment.” A second prototype, possibly with different batteries and a sequential transmission, will be closer to production-spec. The company did not release any performance data but, given the Plus E’s lack of horsepower, driving it will probably be more about fun than outright speed.

Morgan is the perfect company to build a retro electric car; its identity is built around traditional styling and traditional methods of construction. The Plus E and all other Morgans have structural supports made from wood, the original lightweight material, and the company even builds a three-wheeled car powered by a V-Twin motorcycle engine.

Sometimes, looks really are skin deep. With the Plus E, Morgan is showing that modern technology can fit into an old school body. Who said all electric cars had to look like props from a sci-fi movie?