McLaren boss says electric vehicle tech doesn’t yet work for supercars

Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer of McLaren Automotive Ltd., gestures while speaking on the opening day of the 89th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. The show near Lake Leman, which opens to the public from March 7 to 17, will be the first gilded showcase of the year for the likes of Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, and Pininfarina, among others.

Chris J. Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — The chief executive of McLaren Automotive said Tuesday that electric vehicle (EV) technology isn’t yet ready for supercars but could be gradually phased in over the next 10 years. 

“We think we will move into full EV, let’s say, in the second half of this decade,” Mike Flewitt told CNBC at the launch of the new McLaren 765LT. “Full EV, whilst it can work well with commuter cars and in some of the automotive segments, doesn’t really work in the supercar segment.”

Flewitt said he’s aware that some people expect car companies to make their vehicles fully electric as part of the so-called “green recovery” after the coronavirus pandemic. But that might not be as easy as it sounds.

“We have to look at the other side of the equation a little bit as well and one of the realities for the automotive business is that this move is an extraordinarily expensive move,” Flewitt said. “We’ve just been through a period where all manufacturers have had very serious impacts on their financial position. So their ability to afford to move at a quicker pace is going to be jeopardized in some way.”

In the time being, Flewitt said McLaren is moving ahead with hybrid vehicle technology adding that the company sees it as the next logical step. “Hybridization offers a very good solution,” he said. “We bring down our CO2 emissions very significantly.”

But an EV drivetrain can’t yet deliver the same experience as an internal combustion engine, according to Flewitt. “We retain an internal combustion engine in combination with the electric system to provide the driving experience that the car is all about,” he said.

Before moving to full EV, Flewitt said McLaren needs to know it has the demand from customers, the infrastructure to support it and the technology to enable it.

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