Mark Roberts, former head of Design Operations at McLaren Cars, has joined Charge Automotive as Chief Creative Officer. In his new role, he will be tasked with delivering the specialist electric cars being built by Charge while ensuring quality levels befitting a £300k vehicle.
“[There’s] a lot of stuff out there enthusiasts don’t want. God forbid a Prius,” Roberts says. “There’s a market for people that want an electric vehicle with character and performance.”
Roberts knows a thing or two about character. A veteran McLaren designer, he joined the company as employee number nine on the McLaren F1 design team and worked on the critically-acclaimed P1, Senna, Speedtail and the new Elva. Prior to joining McLaren in 1990, Roberts worked for British sports car firm Lotus as a designer and technical illustrator.
“Everyone thought I was part of the furniture [at McLaren],” Roberts says. “I love the products and the team. The 20 of us were a family unit.”
Roberts says that while he will miss working with the team at McLaren the opportunity presented to get in on the ground floor and lead a new project at Charge was simply too good to pass up.
“It’s like when I started [at McLaren] 30 years ago,” Roberts told Form Trends of his recent move. “As soon as I walked in the doors there was an energy; a spark.”
Charge Automotive is a division of Arrival (which also owns Roborace). The company currently has two test cars for Project 1, an all-wheel-drive full-electric version of the now-iconic 1967 Ford Mustang fastback. Plans are to build 499 units of the car, and Roberts’ remit is to ensure that the interior, quality and details of the model are designed and delivered to a high standard.
“We’ve got to respect the silhouette, we’re not going to mess with that,” Roberts says, noting that the panel gaps, engine bay and interior will receive a number of personalized appointments to bring it up to contemporary standards.
“It’s got beautiful details; functional jewelry,” says Roberts. “And we’re working to create an interior that’s sympathetic to the exterior. It’s not an old school ‘67 car that’s been revised, it’s a brand new car.”
Using a rolling EV platform – consisting of two electric motors that generate 536hp and 800lb-ft of torque – supplied by parent company Arrival, Charge sources new Ford-licensed body-in-white shells from a company in California and assembles the cars in England. While the bodies are currently made of steel, Roberts says they may employ more composite material in the future to keep weight down. This would help boost the current car’s 200-mile range.
Roberts’ goal is to focus on the deliverables and get the first vehicles to customers by the end of the year. He then plans to begin working on what Project 2 and Project 3 are going to be. The company’s strategy is to continue to develop new vehicles based on older designs that are brought up to modern standards with contemporary electric powertrains.
But Roberts’ new role also requires him to lead other tasks to build up the fledgling business: “My job is to design everything creative, sales brochures, the website, and the cars.” Roberts will draw on his many years of experience in design operations to fulfill these targets.
Charge Automotive is currently based in west London, UK. Plans to move into a larger, purpose-built facility near Heathrow airport are already well underway. That will make taking delivery of the shells logistically easier and enable the team to expand.
Though watching a 1967 Ford Mustang fastback cruise by without the burbling sound of a V8 does take some getting used to, we’re looking forward to seeing these cars on the road, and the future modern classic Projects the company will create.