An electric sportscar with a five-speed manual gearbox has been designed by Morgan with the support of British technology specialists Zytek and Radshape.
Shown as a concept to test market reaction, the radical new roadster could enter production if there is sufficient demand. "We wanted to see how much fun you can have in an electric sportscar, so we have built one to help us find out," explained Morgan operations director Steve Morris.
"The Plus E combines Morgan's traditional look with high-technology construction and a powertrain that delivers substantial torque instantly at any speed. With the manual gearbox to increase both touring range and driver involvement, it will be a fantastic car to drive."
The Plus E is based on a tailored version of Morgan's lightweight aluminium platform chassis clothed in the revised traditional body from the new BMW V8-powered Plus 8, also launched at Geneva. Power is delivered by a new derivative of Zytek's 70kW 300Nm electric engine, which is already proven with US vehicle manufacturers.
Mounted in the transmission tunnel, the Zytek unit drives the rear wheels through a conventional five-speed manual gearbox. The clutch is retained, but because the motor provides torque from zero speed the driver can choose to leave it engaged when coming to rest and pulling away, driving the car like a conventional automatic.
"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," explained Zytek Automotive managing director Neil Heslington.
"It also allows us to provide lower gearing for rapid acceleration and will make the car more engaging for keen drivers."
The program will deliver two engineering concept vehicles. The first, with the five-speed manual box and Li-ion batteries, will be used for preliminary engineering assessment while the second will be closer to potential production specification, with alternative battery technologies and possibly a sequential gearbox.
"The superb capability of the finished car reflects the passion with which the Zytek team has applied their considerable expertise," adds Morris. "The project is a true collaboration aimed at delivering as much driving pleasure as possible in a zero emissions vehicle. It worked really well, with aluminium fabrication specialist
Radshape paying particular attention to retaining chassis stiffness and weight distribution to ensure excellent dynamics and ride quality with good steering feel."
The collaborative research and development project is part-funded by the UK Government's Niche Vehicle Network Program, which is managed by CENEX to promote the development and commercialisation of new low-carbon vehicle technologies.