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Would an electric SUV make a good race car? Jaguar thinks so

The Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy is a race series built around the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV. Both the SUV and the race series launch in 2018.

Why it matters to you

A race series featuring electric SUVs? This should be entertaining.

When it comes to its first electric car, the I-Pace SUV, Jaguar is taking the old adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” to heart.

The Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy will see drivers line up in identical race-tuned I-Paces on Formula E tracks, during the same weekends as Formula E races. Jaguar claims this series is the “first international championship for production-based electric cars,” although Electric GT is also trying to get its own series off the ground using Tesla Model S race cars.

Jaguar’s I-Pace eTrophy will be what’s known in the business as a “support series.” It will “support” Formula E by giving fans something to watch before a Formula E race, kind of like a warmup act. Race weekends usually include a lot of downtime, and support series like the I-Pace eTrophy help fill it. Jaguar already runs its own Formula E team, so the arrangement makes sense.

Jaguar says up to 20 I-Pace race cars will participate in each event, and the automaker is planning for 10 races in the initial season. Since it uses the same tracks as Formula E, the I-Pace eTrophy will take place on temporary street circuits in major world cities, such as Hong Kong, Paris, and New York. It will launch as part of Formula E’s fifth season, in late 2018. Formula E itself uses single-seat, open-wheel electric cars that look more like traditional racers than Jaguar’s I-Pace SUV.

Jaguar did not release specifications on the I-Pace race cars, but photos show big rear spoilers and other changes. The cars will be maintained by Jaguar and shipped to each race, so drivers don’t need to do anything except show up. This means Jaguar doesn’t have to recruit teams to run in the series, and the convenience of this “arrive and drive” format should make finding drivers easy.

It will certainly be funny to see a bunch of SUVs mixing it up on a race track, especially ones with near-silent electric powertrains. But it makes sense to Jaguar: it plans to put the I-Pace on sale next year and, along with sibling brand Land Rover, will sell only hybrid and all-electric vehicles after 2020.

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