McLaren is betting on hybrids for its supercar future

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The British company on Tuesday outlined the first steps in a transition to producing only electrified supercars, a bet that wealthy consumers and motoring enthusiasts will embrace high-performance hybrid and electric vehicles.

McLaren unveiled a lightweight basic assembly that will form the basis of its new hybrid models, the first of which will launch next year. The platform was developed entirely in house, and will allow engineers to strip excess weight out of the company’s supercars.

Mike Flewitt, the CEO of McLaren, said in a statement that the new system would leave the company “ideally placed to deliver to customers levels of electrified high-performance motoring that until now have simply been unattainable.”

McLaren has unveiled a new basic assembly for use with hybrids.

Since 2013, McLaren’s range-topping supercars, the P1 followed by the Speedtail, have been hybrids. But the model set to hit showrooms next year will be much lighter and more affordable, and be capable of traveling 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) using only electric power. The 720S, a gasoline-powered car in the middle of the company’s range, has a starting price of around £215,000 ($283,000)

Some supercar makers have been slow to embrace electric and hybrid models because of increased weight from batteries, which can affect handling and performance, and a lack of the throaty engine noise typically associated with the vehicles.

Ferrari (RACE) and Lamborghini were saying as recently as last year that fully electric car technology wasn’t ready for supercars. Both Italian brands have offered high-priced hybrids and are reportedly working on more mainstream hybrid models.
McLaren's Speedtail is one of two hybrids previously launched by the carmaker.

Carmakers large and small are moving to overhaul their product lineups as regulators around the world tighten emissions standards and impose deadlines by which the industry must phase out vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel.

In the United Kingdom, for example, the government said in February that it would prohibit sales of new gasoline and diesel cars from 2035 — five years earlier than planned. Hybrid vehicles will also be banned. Norway wants all new passenger cars and vans sold in the country to be zero-emission vehicles by 2025.

Trouble at McLaren

McLaren has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced it to temporarily halt production in March. The company announced in May that it would slash 1,200 jobs as part of a restructuring.

The carmaker had hoped to deliver around 4,000 vehicles in 2020, but sales collapsed in the first quarter. McLaren sold just 307 vehicles in the first three months of the year, a decline of nearly 70% from 2019.

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