One of the first questions people ask about the new electric Morgan Three-wheeler launched at the Geneva show this week is not how fast it goes or how far it can travel, it is… why’s the cyclops headlight off-centre?
Coming as it does after the Clarence the cross-eyed lion look of the Aero when it first came out, one might think Morgan was being deliberately obtuse in the lighting department. Not so, says the firm’s design chief John Wells.
‘It was a hell of a design challenge,’ he told us in Geneva. With battery pack under the floor and electric motor at the rear, the first electric Morgan had to be a complete redesign. ‘What are you meant to do when you take away that beautiful engine at the front of the car? You have to put something there.’
John’s solution was to keep with the Three-wheeler’s trademark exposed mechanicals by placing a row of very functional (and necessary) brass cooling fins where the V-twin would normally be. ‘I wanted it to have a functional look, not just dressed up up for the sake of it.’ The fins are needed to keep the battery pack cool.
For design inspiration, John turned to 1930s aero-engined racers like the Napier Railtons – ‘cars that were streamlined but needed a big mouth for the air intake.’
Fine, but what about the cyclops look? Where did his inspiration for that come from?
‘I am a big fan of custom motorcycles. When classic faired-in racing bikes are put on the road they often are given a single headlight off to one side, so it doesn’t ruin the aerodynamics. That’s what sparked the asymmetrical idea.’
In other words, it’s a cool back-story. Who doesn’t love classic racing bikes after all?
‘For me it would ruin the car if the third headlight were centred,’ said John. ‘But we have scope here to do other things, like twin headlights, or make it symmetrical if someone wants it.’
With some carbon body panels (along with an ash frame of course!) the Morgan EV3 comes in at 500kg, 25 less than the petrol Three-wheeler. The 62bhp electric motor drives the single back wheel by a belt, providing similar performance to the petrol car – 90mph and 0-62mph in 9 seconds – but with instant torque and no mechanical noise.
‘Our Three-wheeler makes the perfect electric sports car,’ Morgan MD Steve Morris told GRR at the show. ‘It’s small, lightweight and has a range of 150 miles, which is shorter than the average Three-wheeler journey. Plus it’s really good fun to drive.’
The car’s launch coincides with confirmation of government-backed funding worth £6m to develop electric and hybrid Morgans over the next three years.
The Morgan EV3 goes into production at Malvern Link in the fourth quarter of this year, at prices to be confirmed but similar to the petrol model’s, which start around £26,000. The first 20 cars are said to be presold.
For its end-of-year launch, the Morgan EV3 will be featuring in a special window display in Selfridges in London – along with the junior pedal car version that will be coming out soon. That’s the Christmas presents sorted then…