Feline as a Ferrari and blessed with the sleek, undulating curves reminiscent of the new Jaguar, it is one beautiful car.
I can’t hold back on an impromptu squeal of delight as I slide into its minimalist, Mission Impossible-esque interior.
The slick click of the ignition button as we depart is the only audible sound. This magnificent beast of a supercar, capable of accelerating to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds and with a top speed in excess of 175mph, neither purrs throatily on tickover nor roars when the accelerator is jammed down. It is as silent as a lamb.
Having experienced a ‘quick spin’ around a test track set up in a Sheffield backwater, I can tell you the Lightning GT lives up to its name. But as the ex rally engineer and driver at the wheel hurls the car headlong towards our photographer, the only noise is from the screech of brakes.
The Lightning GT is a new breed of car. It’s electric. Literally.
It can run on its lithium titanate batteries for over 150 miles, can charge in as little as ten minutes with a high power off-board charger - and it emits no emissions at all.
This is the car that should change global perception of the electric vehicle, removing the blinkers from those who expect lack of performance from electric cars - and journeys that last only a few miles before grinding to a halt like a bunny in a Duracell advert.
And this technological tour de force, designed and made from leading edge components and advanced engineering in Coventry by a team of specialist car makers, owes its performance to Sheffield brainpower. The motor, an electric drive train, has been designed and manufactured in the back streets of Sheffield by a small, niche company which is already the UK’s largest supplier of electrical drive systems for commercial vehicles. Magtec. Remember that name; it could help change the world if the car giants get into gear.
Company M.D. Marcus Jenkins approached Ford General Motors not long after launching the business 20 years ago. “But they felt the market wasn’t ready,” he says. “We stopped making motors for cars after that because we realised we could wait for the motor industry to go through the revolutionary change needed to convert to electric cars. We were ahead of our time.”
“It’s only now that you’re not seen as a madman if you say you’re thinking of buying an electric car. I think a major reason for the delay was that battery technology has taken such a long time to improve. They are now much smaller, lighter and cheaper. The batteries in the Lightning GT, for example, are fitted into the structure and weigh 200kgs, less than an engine.”
Marcus set up in business in 1992 after six years of teaching in the electrical engineering department at Sheffield University, when he gained his degree in 1984.
He worked solo for the first year, then took on another engineer and an administrator. Now there’s a staff of 35 ensuring every single motor component is designed and manufactured in Sheffield.
“That makes us pretty unique,” says Marcus.““It puts us ahead of the game. What we need, we design and make to do exactly what we want them to do. That also saves us money. The only thing we buy in from abroad is the silicon chips. Our competitors are Seimans and BAE. We are taking business off them because our products are significantly more efficient, are half the weight and more reliable thanks to our patented technology.
“We have the potential to change different types of vehicles, and in turn have a major impact on pollution,”
The Lightning GT project came to Magtec through word of mouth a year ago. The motor system devised for it by a Swiss team had failed to deliver enough performance to warrant supercar status.
“It’s a great challenge for us. All the high tec experience of the automotive industry has gone into this one extremely high profile project and we’re included,” says Marcus. “We have been in business 20 years and no one knows we’re here. This car, with its looks and its speed, will change preconceptions and focus attention on us.”
Already, Magtec have given the car that vital oomph. But now they’re going to the next level with a full specification P178 High Performance EV Drive drive-train which should take the 0-60mph acceleration to under four seconds and reach a top speed of 230mph. Track test trials at an undisclosed destination in South Yorkshire show they’re on target.
The technology takes place at Magtec’s premises on Attercliffe’s Newhall Road and there’s something so right about that; it’s just a skip from where Sheffield once produced its very own early supercar, the Simplex, from 1905 to 1925. Manufacture in a purpose-built factory at Sheffield Road, Tinsley, close to what is now Darwins Alloy Castings, was backed by the fabulously wealthy Earl Fitzwilliam, of Wentworth Woodhouse, Rotherham.
Like the Lightning GT, it had electrical innovation; it was the first in England to be built with an electric starter motor.