Back in late August Land Rover announced it was bringing to market its first ever hybrid offerings, with plans calling for deliveries to begin to interested customers in early 2014. As part of its publicity push around this, the automotive brand sent three of the new hybrid SUVs on a planned 16,000 km expedition across 12 countries. This route, which including part of the ancient, 4,000 mile Silk Road, is now complete.
Land Rover said the Diesel Hybrid prototypes completed 10,472 miles along the Silk Trail from Solihull, United Kingdom, which is its home, to Mumbai, India, where its parent company TATA is located. The journey covered 53 days, 13 countries and two continents as the vehicles were tested “to the limits in temperatures from -10 degrees to 43 degrees Celsius at altitudes of 5500 metres and over every type of terrain.”
Highlights along the route included passing through the nations of France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China (including Tibet) and Nepal. Overnight halts were made in hotels, hostels and tents at many of the same staging posts visited many years ago by Silk Road merchants, missionaries and mercenaries.
Besides gaining press attention and offering an extended vacation for those on the long drive, actual useful information was collected on the hybrids’ handling abilities. According to Land Rover, its development engineers
closely monitored data loggers fitted to each car, sending back more than 300 gigabytes of detailed technical records to their engineering team at Gaydon in the UK. The purpose of the expedition was not to test the reliability of mechanical components, which are already proven, but to fine-tune the calibration of engine and transmission software to ensure perfectly seamless performance in all terrains and extreme temperatures and altitudes. Technical setbacks reflected the roughness of the road surfaces: 15 punctures among the expedition’s three Range Rover Hybrids and four support vehicles, four wheels damaged by deep potholes, and four windscreens cracked by stones thrown-up on loose surfaces.
As currently configured, the Land Rover hybrid drivetrain includes a 3-liter SDV6 diesel engine with a 35kW electric motor integrated with an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission and lithium-ion battery pack. The electric motor produces 170Nm torque to boost acceleration and drives the vehicle in EV Mode, letting one travel at speeds of up to 30mph (48km/h) for a range of up to one mile (1.6km) in electric only.