The SEAT el-Born electric car has made its first appearance in the UK as the brand gears up for future electrification.
The concept, which will become a production model in 2020, has been on show at a media event in Liverpool following its global reveal at the Geneva motor show in March.
SEAT’s first electric vehicle to go on sale will be a version of the Mii on sale at the start of next year. But it is the el-Born, built on the Volkswagen Group’s new MEB platform specifically designed for electrification, that points to the future of the brand.
SEAT is still not yet revealing too many technical and mechanical details of the el-Born though we do know that the car will have a range between 185 and 260 miles, reach 62mph from rest in 7.5 seconds and using a DC charger will be able to regain 160 miles of range in 30 minutes.
However speaking at the Liverpool event, SEAT’s head of exterior design Joaquín García has offered more details on the exterior design of the el-Born, which has to fulfil a dual agenda of setting an image of SEAT’s electric vehicles and offering the best possible aerodynamic performance to increase the car’s range between charges.
“Our mindset was that electric cars are really fun to drive, they are exciting with their acceleration and their handling and the design should reflect this,” Garcia says.
He highlights the front end of the el-Born. “It is an evolution of the new family face of SEAT that we launched on the flagship Tarraco SUV, but on an electric car it is much more progressive,” he says.
The upper grille is a prime element of the design, though technically it is no longer needed as an electric motor does not need cooling in the way of a traditional engine. “So we have made it more of an ornamental element – it provides an identity to the car and is more integrated to the shape of the car. It’s the same with the SEAT logo. It is flush to the body, which makes it appear very technological.”
Smoothing out the airflow is vital on an EV as less drag means greater range. A number of elements contribute to this, from ensuring that corners and angles in the body break up the flow as little as possible, to using lightweight wheels with aerodynamic covers over them.
But according to Garcia it is just a important that the car looks aerodynamic and sporty. “For example, the way the rear window graphic connects to the rear spoiler gives a floating effect to the roof, which integrates with the spoiler area, making it look like not an added element but an integrated design. it’s all very modern and monolithic.”
The interior of the el-Born is equally vital to the image; “It is sculptural and emotional – all the interior design lines point to the dash and the driver and the sporty look is enhanced by a flat-bottom steering wheel, the seats and the trim.”
Garcia also emphasises that technology will be very important to the el-Born. “The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and the infotainment screen in the centre are designed to appear as floating elements – all in all this is a very technological and emotional vehicle.”
The el-Born is regarded as essential to continuing SEAT’s impressive turnaround. Once described as the VW Group’s ‘problem child’, in 2018 the brand sold almost 520,000 cars, the best performance in its history. And that growth is continuing in 2019, so far up 7.7 per cent across Europe, despite challenging market conditions.
The UK, SEAT’s third-biggest market after Germany and Spain, saw record sales last year of more than 62,000 cars – “We were the fastest-growing brand in the UK in both 2017 and 2018,” says SEAT UK MD Richard Harrison.