Whatever happened to the Morgan EV3?
Morgan's three-wheeled EV was canned before it made production. Shame
What is it?
Brilliant, is what it is. At 2016’s Geneva Motor Show Morgan revealed the EV3 – a version of the ubiquitous 3 Wheeler with an electric motor instead of the customary front-mounted V-twin bike engine.
Said e-motor was behind the seats and powered the sole rear-wheel. We were promised “the same handling characteristics as the normal 3 Wheeler”, and that within a couple of years it would actually go on sale alongside the petrol version for around £30,000.
Its core structure was wood – because Morgan – but the body panels were carbon and it had brass cooling fins to keep the e-motor cool. The look, with the offset centre headlight, was inspired by old racing motorcycles. And it was something to look at since there was no shiny engine up front to draw the eye.Advertisement - Page continues below
What did it predict about the future?
That even cottage-industry carmakers like Morgan will have to confront the thorny issue of electrification sooner or later, as governments around the world get closer to banning the sale of new petrol-engined cars.
The only way most of these smaller carmakers are going to survive through the next couple of decades is by buying in ready-made EV drivetrains, just as they buy in their internal-combustion engines today, for a fraction of the price it would cost to develop their own.
Nowadays there are a few companies that offer plug-and-play EV powertrains for installation in whatever you fancy, but they’ve all sprung up in the last year or so. Back in 2017 Morgan’s plan was to team up with a company called Frazer-Nash Energy Systems, which would supply proven battery, motor and charging tech for the EV3. But alas, the agreement between the two companies broke down – supply issues, apparently – and the whole project was canned.
Give me some numbers.
When the EV3 was revealed Morgan said it would have a 61bhp e-motor and 20kWh battery pack. 0-60mph would take around nine seconds, it said, and it would travel 150 miles on a charge. The top speed was put at 90mph and it only weighed half a tonne because, well, there wasn’t much to it.
The specs were revised in late 2017 after Morgan entered into its technical partnership with Frazer-Nash Energy Systems. We were told the EV3 would have “comparable performance to its petrol sibling” and would feature a 21kWh battery. The motor would produce a peak of 56bhp, and the projected range had slipped to 120 miles.Advertisement - Page continues below
Did it actually work?
No doubt Morgan had prototypes – it wouldn’t have committed to putting the EV3 into production if it didn’t think the idea was a goer. When it was revealed in 2016, Morgan’s Head of Design John Wells told us what it was like to drive: “You just go as fast as you dare, and you can still slide it and donut it around like you can the normal 3-wheeler! The wind and the motor whirring, it’s a real experience. It sounds like a spaceship.”
Whether Morgan developed the EV3 to the point it was capable of the claimed performance/range figures is another matter.
Why should I have cared about it?
Because even though the EV3 never actually materialised, EVs are as much the future for Britain’s small-scale carmakers as they are for all the big ones. The EV3 came just a bit too soon for Morgan to pull it off, and that’s a crying shame (though no doubt it’ll try again at some point).
All these companies buy-in engines and tech from other manufacturers anyway and will do much the same when it comes to batteries and e-motors. So they way they operate shouldn’t change all that much. The cars will have to, though. The platforms underneath Morgan’s new Plus Four and Plus Six were developed with evolution in mind, so they ought to be ready for whatever comes next. We hope others are thinking as far ahead.
Why did it fail?
Supply issues, simple as that. Morgan revealed the EV3 at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016 and a few months later announced it was planning to sell the first 19 cars – dubbed the ‘1909 Edition’ – through London department store Selfridges for £52,500 each.
Then it all went quiet until the end of 2017, when Morgan announced its technical partnership with Frazer-Nash Energy Systems and revised the specs. Production was due to start in 2018 at Morgan’s Pickersleigh Road factory in Worcestershire, but the agreement between the two companies faltered and the project was put on hold indefinitely.
“Electrification is nice to have,” Morgan CEO Steve Morris told us in 2019 after Italian financier Investindustrial’s sizable investment in the company, “but we need the right partner.”