It was a virtual certainty that McLaren's forthcoming electrified supercar would be underpinned by an all-new generation of carbon fibre tub - now we have official confirmation. The plug-in hybrid model due next year will be built around an architecture "designed specifically to accommodate new hybrid powertrains" by the team at McLaren's Composites Technology Centre in Sheffield. It's said to use all-new processes and techniques that further reduce weight and increase structural rigidity.
That's a familiar claim from McLaren, and was certainly true of its preceding tubs, from the 12C's MonoCell to the latest Monocage II; all delivering a modest evolution in capabilities and stiffness as the supercars around them matured. Where the latest architecture will obviously differ is in its design flexibility; it's ready out of the box to accept differing levels of electrification, with CEO Mike Flewitt stating that it'll enable McLaren to "transition to 100 per cent electrified supercars". Fully electric P1 successor, anyone?
First, though, the transition will retain ICE power. Starting with the 2021 model we've spied in recent months, the structure is widely expected to house more potent hybrid hardware alongside an all-new turbocharged V6, giving the PHEV supercar sufficient performance to earn it bragging rights over the outgoing 570S - while delivering greater efficiency. Naturally the expectation is that overall mass will have increased with the introduction of battery cells, but expect the smaller petrol motor and new tub to have contributed to significant weight loss elsewhere. This is McLaren, after all.
Key to the new model being marketable in regions where zero-emission running is mandated, the PHEV is thought to be capable of around 21 miles of engine-free running. At the other end of the performance spectrum, the car is almost certain to deliver eye-opening acceleration times as McLaren harnesses the other advantages of a petrol-electric powertrain. Moreover the 2021 car is anticipated as the entry-point for the incoming architecture; expect more potent electrified supercars to follow on - especially given Mike Flewitt's comments about the firm's tech transition.
"The new ground-breaking vehicle architecture is every bit as revolutionary as the MonoCell chassis we introduced with the company's first car, the 12C, when we first embarked on making production vehicles a decade ago," noted McLaren's CEO. "Our advanced expertise in light weight composites processes and manufacturing combined with our experience in cutting-edge battery technology and high-performance hybrid propulsion systems means we are ideally placed to deliver to customers levels of electrified high-performance motoring that until now have simply been unattainable."
All that said, McLaren still expects to be making internal combustion for two more decades; Flewitt told PH in a May that he's "always thought that with EV rollout we would see different market segments responding at different speeds". So while the new architecture inevitably points the way forward for the brand, it is unlikely to mark the beginning of the end for its relationship with petrol-power. Although given the obvious requirement for Woking to diversify its range, the pivotal role Sheffield has played in development and the ten-year anniversary of its formation, the chassis's introduction may very well be regarded as the end of McLaren Automotive's beginning. A new and infinitely more challenging decade starts here.
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