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By Alan Baldwin
LONDON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Jaguar will leap back on to the world motorsport stage next year with the British luxury car brand announcing on Tuesday it was entering the Formula E electric racing series.
"Electric vehicles will absolutely play a role in Jaguar Land Rover's future product portfolio and Formula E will give us a unique opportunity to further our development of electrification technologies," said Nick Rogers, JLR's Group Engineering Director.
"In the next decade we will see more changes in the automotive world than in the last 30," he added at a news conference in London's Shard tower.
"We believe electrification is the future."
Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the group that includes former Formula One world champions Williams, will be technical partners to the Indian-owned company and much of the team's work will be done at their Grove factory.
Williams chief executive Mike O'Driscoll is a former managing director of Jaguar, leading the company through the sale to Tata Motors in 2008.
Jaguar also partnered with Williams on the development of their C-X75 plug-in hybrid concept car.
The decision to enter Formula E, facilitated by the Italian Trulli team already giving up one of the 10 slots, will be Jaguar's biggest motorsport involvement since the then Ford-owned brand departed Formula One at the end of 2004.
Jaguar, who sold their team to Red Bull, failed to make an impact in the hugely expensive world of Formula One but the costs in Formula E are far lower with restrictions to keep spending in check.
Rogers said the latest foray, which will start when Formula E enters its third season in the latter part of the year, was "all about the technology development" rather than simply winning races.
Formula E launched in 2014 and holds one-day events in city centres around the world, with this season's calendar including Beijing, Moscow, Berlin, Paris, London and Long Beach in California.
Leading manufacturers Renault, Citroen's DS brand, Audi and India's Mahindra are already involved.
Rogers highlighted Jaguar's history of technical innovation, from the 1950s Le Mans winning lightweight cars, and said Formula E provided a perfect fit in a carbon conscious world.
"Jaguar is a brand with a rich sporting heritage and the fact that it is returning to global motorsport with Formula E is a huge endorsement of the championship and its ability to influence the development of electric cars," said Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag.
Editing by Ed Osmond