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Morgan Plus E: Tomorrow’s World meets the Antiques Roadshow

The Morgan Plus E looks old, but its powertrain is brand spanking new.
The Morgan Plus E looks old, but its powertrain is brand spanking new.

The Plus E uses a 94bhp (70kW) electric motor made by British firm Zytek, with which it’s able to summon 300Nm of torque (221lbft) from zero rpm. It’s not as ballistic as the 4.9-litre BMW V8 under the Plus 8’s long, centre-hinged bonnet, but the Plus E should still be quite capable of making its rear rubber chirp. Or, indeed, melt.

Maximum speed is 115mph – fast enough to set a silk scarf flapping – while the sprint to 60mph should take about six seconds. Zytek is working on higher powered motors for the future, delivering as much as 160bhp with similar torque to the V8’s 490Nm (361lbft).

Unusually for an electric car, the Plus E retains a conventional five-speed manual gearbox. The compact electric motor fits ahead of the clutch, reserving the bulk of the engine bay for lithium-ion batteries. Morgan says the car’s reserves should be good for 120 miles of motoring.

High-torque motors have brought gearbox grief for electric car makers in the past – pioneer Tesla Motors broke lots of two-speed boxes in its early days and eventually gave up, bringing its Roadster to market with a single-speed drive. But Morgan should be OK with a box built to handle much more than the little Zytek motor can chuck at it.

With cogs to swap, your typical Morgan driver will have something to occupy his string-backed fist, but more importantly a variety of ratios will allow the electric motor to run more efficiently. It’s a myth that EVs don’t need gears. Much like a petrol engine, torque, power and efficiency vary over the rev range and all three drop off sharply as the motor nears its maximum speed, which means the extra losses of stirring a gearbox won’t necessarily mean reduced range from the batteries. And a choice of ratios will mean a snappier and more responsive car at speed.

One interesting quirk of the transmission is that while the clutch will need to be used as normal to change gears, you don’t need to bother downshifting when slowing down. The electric motor will happily stay in any gear right down to a standstill.

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