Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Technology Focus - Morgan Cars: The high-technology future of the Classic British Sports Cars

A recent visit to Morgan Cars prompted to write this article. I was really interested to see how the mix of classic heritage skills is being blended with high-tech Engineering to produce really great, desirable cars. This is a picture you can see mirrored at other strong British automotive brands (JLR, Aston Martin, Bentley Motors etc.).

Morgan Cars is a high value brand, associated with the traditional, high quality craft skills needed to create a classic British sports car - one that creates excitement and enthusiasm for the driver. Thus, buying and owning a Morgan is a really special and personal experience, knowing that you have invested in a vehicle that has been designed, created, Engineered and manufactured with exceptionally high precision and care. This has been the Morgan tradition and hallmark for many years!

Times are changing though, legislation in relation to safety and exhaust emissions are the main drivers for technological developments in Automotive Engineering. Customer expectations are high with respect to performance, drivability and emission compliance - and Morgan has no exemption here! So the question is - what is Morgan doing to meet these challenges. The answer is that Morgan is investigating a number of technologies to investigate and meet future challenges. A considerable undertaking when you consider that one of the constraints is to retain the heritage and tradition of the brand and the marque!

In general, light weighting concepts have a number of benefits - advanced materials have superior stiffness, providing improved handling chassis. The lighter overall weight reduces inertia - improving acceleration and cornering performance. However, a real benefit in fuel consumption (and reduced emissions) can be gained by reducing vehicle mass as much as possible (whilst maintaining structural integrity). Morgan has successfully experimented with magnesium for body structures - which is the lightest structural metal available (30% less dense than aluminium). The use of sheet magnesium for vehicle structural applications requires hot-forming, increasingly being adopted by premium car manufacturers, as this process can produce large, complex body panels. Morgan intends to adopt the newly developed technologies (produced by an experimental project) on its next generation of premium sports cars.

Magnesium has significant benefits for manufacturing car body panels – mainly its strength combined with light weight, to reduce vehicle mass

This is a general term used in Automotive Engineering covering numerous applications of applying electric drives and motors in order to provide power for accessories, or traction – but only when needed (for example electric power steering). Morgan has experimented with the option of a full electric power train, a project known as the Plus-E. An electric sports car with a five-speed manual gearbox, designed by Morgan with the support of British technology specialists Zytek and Radshape. This was developed as a concept vehicle to test market reaction, but the radical new roadster could enter production if there is sufficient demand.

The Plus-E electric concept vehicle – could be coming to a Morgan showroom near you soon

This vehicle combines Morgan’s traditional look with high-technology construction and a power train that delivers substantial torque - instantly at any speed! This is combined with a manual gearbox to increase both touring range and driver engagement. The Plus E is based on an adapted version of Morgan’s lightweight aluminium platform chassis with power provided by a new derivative of Zytek’s 70kW (94bhp) 300Nm electric machine (already well proven). The power unit is mounted in the transmission tunnel and drives the rear wheels through a conventional five-speed manual gearbox. However, the system has sophisticated electronic controls to synchronise the motor speed and torque during shifts, to provide a seamless gear change with minimal interruption of traction for a perfect gear shift. The combination of multi-speed transmission and high torque e-machine allows operation of the motor at maximum efficiency, for as much of the time as possible, whilst providing the best possible performance for the driver experience. The project is future oriented and encompasses the exploration of alternative transmission types (CVT, DSG) as well as different battery chemistry options.

Morgan employs state-of-the-art Engines, supplied by leading Automotive Manufacturers. These power units are integrated into the overall Morgan chassis and then calibrated to adapt them to the unique character of the Morgan vehicle. The power units are selected specifically to incorporate the latest technologies for emissions reduction and engine efficiency. For example, the V8 power unit employs direct injection - this technology improves efficiency at part load due to the fact that no throttling of the engine is needed to control power output (it's controlled by injected fuel quantity). In addition, knock resistance (knock is a limiting factor for the efficiency of a gasoline engine) is improved by advanced fuel injection systems that use high pressures, to provide a well prepared fuel/air mixture - this is advanced technology but, the current state of the art engines now include downsizing or down-speeding concepts in order to reduce friction losses and operate the engine at maximum efficiency for as much of the time as possible. Engines with high specific power outputs, based on turbo-charged/boosted concepts, are expected to dramatically increase their market share within the next five years. Further down the pipeline, engines will evolve again to meet ever changing and more challenging targets - technologies such as Variable valve lift, Variable compression ratio and variable ancillary drive systems (oil and coolant pumps) will become mainstream, in addition to energy recovery (thermal and kinetic - as used in Formula 1 from this year) - this area is very promising technology to improve overall power train efficiency.

Energy recovery – Formula 1 technology that could be used by Morgan cars to improve the efficiency of the overall power train. Thermal heat recovery is also applicable (now applied in Formula 1 cars)


The transmission and the engine have to be considered and optimised together in order to provide a harmonised power unit that delivers the performance expected by the driver, combined with meeting legislative demands. Manual transmissions are common with 5 or 6 ratios. However, in the near future, more ratios are needed, in conjunction with automation of shifting and control, in order to keep the engine operating in the optimum fuel consumption range. It is suggested that 10 speed transmissions will be needed and common place (in DSG form). This could be combined with an electric machine for low power requirements at low speed. Electrified transmissions with electronic control can be used to reduce fuel consumption and emissions in several ways - The e-machine can provide power at low or zero speed where the combustion engine is very inefficient. The shift control strategy can be combined with engine control to give the optimum shift point for maximum efficiency. Also, the electric machine can be used to provide seamless shifting and constant tractive power. There are a number of transmission concepts available and in use, but no clear leader. If integrated into a Morgan Cars power train, the transmission concept chosen will have to support the performance and driveability that matches the marque!

The Eva GT – tomorrows Morgan available today! High technology, advanced design, stunningly attractive!

A combination of future technologies has been combined in the Morgan life car project. This prototype received a rapturous response and according to some sources, Morgan has decided to take it from a prototype to a fully-fledged production vehicle. There have been some changes to the original brief, making the car more practical, while retaining the revolutionary features that made LIFE car unique.

The proposed vehicle now includes a super-efficient, series hybrid drive train, developed using some of the country's best universities, making use of the wealth of knowledge in their research departments. The drive train will power a vehicle that epitomises Morgan core value of innovation. The use of sustainable lightweight materials will ensure that not only is the vehicle fuel efficient, with a low carbon output, but that at the end of its very long life, it will be easily recyclable. The goals set are for a vehicle
  • 1000 mile range
  • Ultra lightweight (sub 800kg)
  • 15 mile EV range
  • 0-60mph in 7 seconds
  • ~£40,000 Price
The Morgan life car project – Next generation of Morgan sports car combing light weighting with an advanced powertrain.


There is no single technology that will secure the future for Morgan, or any other manufacturer. Even the mainstream manufacturers are gambling with a combination of low carbon technologies in order to meet or achieve current and forthcoming requirements. It could be considered that Morgan cars, as a manufacturer of 'niche' vehicles does not need to lead but just follow industry trends. However, that is not the Morgan way! Even though production volumes are low (compared to the mass market), innovation and technology are within the Morgan DNA. As the only remaining, true British manufacturer, Morgan takes its responsibility to be a leader very seriously. A clear example of this is the position Morgan takes in this area, with many research projects and collaborations with leading universities, who can undertake the research task and produce tangible technology that can be ported into production by Morgan.

There is no doubt - Morgan is a leader in pushing the boundaries of design and technology for Classic British sports cars, and will continue to do so for many forthcoming generations.

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