Paul Swift has been showcasing a new breed of electric cars from Ford – Discover EV finds out more in an exclusive interview.
After taking a ride up Goodwood Hillclimb with seven-time British Motorsport Champion Paul Swift in a Ford Mach-E GT, we decide to pick his brains about all things EV.
You just won the Shootout award for fastest production car up Goodwood Hill, setting a time of 61.9s in the Mustang Mach-e GT. What was it like driving an electric car up the famous hillclimb?
It was a fantastic experience, I’ve driven the course hundreds of times but this was the first time in an electric car and actually the first time I’ve been entered into the Shootout so I was very excited. It was super quick off the start line, a lot like a train leaving a station, and I was pushed back into the seat like nothing else I’ve competed with. I got instant traction and it just kept going from there. We beat some serious competition including a classic F1 car so I was delighted.
The Mach-e GT wasn’t the only showcasing electric car from Ford you were showcasing over the Goodwood Festival of Speed weekend. Tell us about the 1400 prototype you were driving?
The Mach-e 1400 is unreal, I was gob smacked when they asked me to drive it. It’s the only one in the world, it was a collaboration between RTR & Ford Performance, its 1400hp and completely bonkers. I’ve driven some really powerful cars before but this was something special – it has seven motors, three to the front and four to the rear. The guys at Ford asked if I could demo it in the drift batch, which was really tricky on such a narrow course but I had great fun and even managed a cheeky donut outside Goodwood House.
What are your thoughts on electric racing, such as Formula e?
I managed to catch a bit of the most recent race in London. I found the rules a bit confusing to a beginner as they have to conserve energy in order to make the finish but it is very close competition and something that is only going to grow as we get used to electrification.
At 16, you began competing in motorsport and over eight seasons you secured both the MSA Autotest Championship three times and the BTRDA four times, before establishing your own precision driving company. Would you ever consider going back to motorsport, and more specifically, becoming involved in electric cars?
I do still compete occasionally, I’ve kept the car I won the championship in and I also have a classic Mk2 escort which I use for tarmac rallying. Having now driven so many electric vehicles and our success in the Goodwood Shootout in the Mach-e, I have no doubt I’ll be competing in one again very soon.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for drivers and mechanics with an electric drivetrain compared to a race car with a combustion engine?
Presently the challenge is the weight of the batteries vs combustion engine vehicles but as with any new engineering developments we continue to improve the performance through competition. In fact, I’ve no doubt that the technology is already there.
As someone that is interested in the technical aspect of cars, do you talk to the engineers about details of the drivetrain when you work with manufacturers?
Whenever we are asked by a manufacturer to showcase a new vehicle we spend a few days with the team in the workshop working out its capability. The switch to electric has been a big learning curve for us but we are lucky to have the support of the Ford Performance team at Dunton.
There is a shortage of EV skilled workforce compared to growth in BEV, PHEV and HEV sales, according to Institute of the Motor Industry. As a mechanical engineer why do you think this is? Do you think it presents a serious risk to consumer confidence in wide-scale adoption of zero emission motoring?
I think that the industry as a whole is just playing catch with the manufacturers. I went to college for four years before I qualified so I guess we will be seeing the future engineering wizards streaming through with completely new ways of thinking about passenger vehicles. Personally I think the new generation of electric vehicles are so good it will only take a quick test drive to convince the unconverted.
We couldn’t agree more. What’s your favourite EV and why?
Well I’ve just been presented with a bottle of Verve Clique for winning in the Mach-e GT so I might be biased but I do genuinely love it, it’s a great looking car, full to the gills with tech, super quick but practical as an everyday family car.
What do you see as the biggest barrier to a mass adoption of EVs?
It’s probably dispelling a lot of the myths around EVs. It’s clear that they are better for the environment, they can be as much fun as a combustion engine car and cheaper to run, however the upfront investment could be a hurdle for some too.