Morgan thinks big as it goes fully electric after 114 years of petrol power

The all-electric Morgan XP1, with  Morgan's chief technology officer, Matt Hole, in the driving seat
The all-electric Morgan XP1, with Morgan's chief technology officer, Matt Hole, in the driving seat

Morgan’s battery-powered XP1 might look like a translucent version of its existing Super 3 three-wheeler, but in fact it’s a bellwether for the future of Morgan vehicles.

“The future does have to be electric,” says Matt Hole, Morgan’s chief technology officer. “Apart from the legislation push, there’s also a supply-chain issue, we simply won’t be able to buy combustion engines from our suppliers.”

Matt Hole, Morgan's chief technology officer, at the helm of the XP1
Matt Hole, Morgan's chief technology officer, at the helm of the XP1

For those of you who had hoped that Morgan might be able to plough its own low-carbon furrow, perhaps with hydrogen combustion, this three-wheel prototype, the 114-year-old Malvern manufacturer’s second attempt at an electric tricycle, is the case against.

Under the skin

Unveiled at the end of last year, the chain-driven trike is powered by a Chinese-made Calb 33kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted between the front wheels under the bonnet. There’s a combined motor/inverter/single-speed transmission in the transmission tunnel driving the single rear wheel in much the same way as the combustion version.

The XP1 is powered by a Chinese-made Calb 33kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted between the front wheels under the bonnet
The XP1 is powered by a Chinese-made Calb 33kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted between the front wheels under the bonnet

The predicted range for this well-finished prototype is about 130 miles, although Hole says he would hope the first production cars would have nearer to 250 miles.

Charging is via an industry-standard CCS plug, which gives up to 50kW of DC charging, though the aim is to get nearer to 100kW for production.

The XP1 weighs 690kg compared with the petrol Super 3’s 635kg; a host of bodywork tweaks, as well as a flat bottom, give it an improved coefficient of drag of 0.42Cd against the Super 3’s 0.65Cd.

Preparing for full electrification

Hole, appointed at the end of 2021, has huge experience of developing EV drivetrains for a range of automotive manufacturers. In the last two years he’s been preparing the ground for EV adoption at Morgan, putting engineers through the high-voltage courses, recruiting software engineers and building a knowledge base about how to specify and understand a battery-electric drivetrain.

Matt Hole wants to take other manufacturers’ combustion drivetrains and adapt them for Morgan's own vehicles.
Matt Hole wants to take other manufacturers’ combustion drivetrains and adapt them for Morgan's own vehicles.

“I want Morgan to be a master integrator,” he says, referring to how he wants to modernise Morgan’s century-old skills at taking other manufacturers’ combustion drivetrains (currently BMW and Ford) and adapting them for its own vehicles.

So the XP1 is as much a training aid as it is a statement of intent. Hole explains that in an electric future, Morgan engineers will need to be able to profoundly understand the company’s requirements in a host of new disciplines and know what they need to ask for.

“Software and control are something we’ve concentrated on,” he says, citing items such as an electronic handbrake, which is required on an electric drivetrain, but which will also need an auto-hold function so the motor isn’t straining against the brakes during a hill start.

“Our engineers should be able to specify the details of exactly what they require,” says Hole.

Morgan have worked hard on the software and user interface on this EV
Morgan have worked hard on the software and user interface on this EV

Similarly, the twin-loop cooling systems for the battery and electric drive motor need to be designed to complement each other and the CCS charging socket needs to communicate with the car about battery charging requirements.

“Although we’re a small company, we need to put the same amount of engineering in as a large-scale car maker,” he says.

A proper Morgan

While the XP1 isn’t intended for production in this form, Hole says he was careful that it embodied Morgan’s driving qualities.

“At heart a Morgan has to be lightweight, simple and analogue in feel,” he says.

The XP1, he says, will be “playful” to drive, with a keen turn-in to corners, along with a variable traction control so the rear wheel will spin if so desired.

The XP1 continues Morgan's illustrious history of making super-powered trikes, from the F-Series to the Super Sports; from the 3-Wheeler to the Super 3
The XP1 continues Morgan's illustrious history of making super-powered trikes, from the F-Series to the Super Sports; from the 3-Wheeler to the Super 3

The central digital display from the Super 3 has been retained, but with redesigned graphics to show range, battery contents and so on. There’s also a series of 100 LED lights around the front edge of the bonnet to display the battery charge state when it is plugged in.

While the company’s previous attempt at an electric three-wheeler in 2016 ended abruptly when collaborators Frazer-Nash Energy Systems encountered problems in supply, the XP1 is a much more in-house project at Morgan and therefore much more serious.

Eventually the four-wheeled cars will receive the battery treatment, but for the moment Hole says the XP1 is preparing the ground.

Watch this space – I’m aiming to be able to drive the prototype in the next couple of months.