At the 2011 Geneva Auto Show, Land Rover unveiled the Range_e diesel, a plug-in hybrid variant of its diesel-powered Range Rover Sport mid-sized SUV. The automaker now plans to debut new, decidedly different vehicle at this year’s auto show.
The Land Rover Electric Defender is a pure EV based off an earlier model, the Leopard 1 EV. Both vehicles are based off the Defender SUV. Land Rover replaced the diesel engine and transmission of the Electric Defender with a 70 kilowatt electric motor powered by a 27 kilowatt lithium-ion battery. The latter, at over 900 pounds, is very heavy. Land Rover compensates by equipping the Defender Electric with an air-cooling system for its powertrain instead of liquid-cooling used by many other EVs . The system is not only lighter, states the manufacturer, but less complex as well.
The Defender Electric has a range of 50 miles between charges. Battery power typically lasts around eight hours with low-speed, off-road driving. Land Rover states it has optimized its EV’s regenerative braking system to the point that it can recover up to 80 percent of the kinetic energy back to the battery. Otherwise, it takes around 10 hours to recharge the Defender Electric with a three kilowatt charger, or four hours using a more powerful seven kilowatt charger.
The Defender Electric is fully capable of off-roading like any of its siblings. The EV continues to use the standard four-wheel drivetrain found in regular Defenders, though utilizing a single-speed gear ratio instead of the standard six-speed manual transmission. Towing capacity of the SUV has been measured up to 12 tons while climbing up a 13 degree angle. The vehicle has been subjected to other environmental conditions, including extreme temperatures and crossing open bodies of water up to 2.5 feet deep.
Land Rover plans to debut seven electric Defenders at the show. Don’t expect any of them to show up at your local dealership in the U.S. or even in Europe. Apparently, they’re being built strictly as research vehicles at this time. States Antony Harper, head of Research at Jaguar Land Rover, “This project is acting as a rolling laboratory for Land Rover to assess electric vehicles, even in the most arduous all-terrain conditions. It gives us a chance to evolve and test some of the technologies that may one day be introduced into future Land Rover models.”
A gasoline-powered version of the Defender returns to the U.S. sometime this year. Right now, the closest competitor to the Defender Electric is the smaller Toyota RAV4 EV which went on sale last year here in the U.S. Potential buyers can also opt to have their SUVs converted to an EV courtesy of companies like AMP.