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A breath of fresh air

Biophilic design expert Oliver Heath takes a family break in a Jaguar I-PACE (yes, with dog)
A breath of fresh air

This article first appeared in our spring ’19 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Organic Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 31 May 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

We’re trying to head off for a week in the Cotswolds – the family plus 18-month-old pup – and I’m packing the car: a time that’s usually filled with dread and spatial anxiety.

As a long-term electric vehicle driver, space in our saloon has always been at a premium: the car is usually filled to bursting well before the final bags, coats and toys are brought out.

Next-gen EVs

For years the choice of electric vehicles may have suited a day out or a trip around town – but there has been little evidence of any understanding of the chaos and overwhelming baggage of family life and holiday travel.

Till now, that is – as I am packing the voluminous boot of the Jaguar I-PACE. The bags go in (plenty of room still), the food goes in (still good) the toys and games go in (getting fuller) and finally the coats and boots (and we’re there!).

The difference is that I’ll still be able to use the rear view mirror, and drive with relative ease without feeling stuffed to the gunnels. Plus there’s a handy secret bag-sized storage compartment under the front bonnet – perfect, it turns out, for the stuff you thought you must have left at home.

At last, it seems, the next generation of electric cars is here, and they are bigger, better and have a significantly longer range – though the Jaguar’s factory spec of 292 miles turns out to be closer to 235 in Britain’s cooler spring temperatures.

But the best bit: they are faster, sleeker and more fun to drive than ever; the I-PACE’s sculptured body oozes style and aerodynamic efficiency.

On the road

The first thing that I noticed when driving the I-PACE was its mass: at two tonnes (thanks largely to the batteries) it drives as if it’s magnetised to the road, hugging corners and pulling smoothly out of the bends. It just feels so solid.

But don’t think that stops it being fast and responsive; at 4.5 seconds for 0-60 it confidently manoeuvres standing starts and the fast lane when needed – and wow is it fun.

One word of warning: the lack of combustion engine, noise and vibration belie the I-PACE’s speed and acceleration. Luckily it has a built-in speed camera notification sensor that ‘pings’ helpfully as you approach oncoming speed traps, should you just edge over the speed limit, which I obviously never did. (Honest. Really.)

Internally the cockpit is well thought out and easy to navigate – essential for today’s tech-savvy kids, who don’t read instruction manuals but still want to know if we’re ‘nearly there yet’. It’s also ergonomically responsive, with fully adjustable height, width and lumber supportive seats. They have the added surprise of blowing cool fresh air through the leatherwork to refresh the areas, where, well, where the sun don’t shine. It’s cool – really cool, if you can get used to it.

Where luxury meets fun

Our week with the I-PACE was a glimpse into the aspirations of the electric car world; with a starting price of £63,495 it’s setting the bar high at the luxury end in finish, tech and performance.

I have to say it left me with a slightly guilty feeling, questioning if cleaner, more environmentally conscious driving should really be this luxurious and this much fun. But what is clear is that the benefits will trickle down across the EV automotive industry and become accessible to many in the near-distant future – though perhaps not the in-seat air con, which could just be a breath of fresh air too far.

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