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Land Rover Begins Testing Electric Defender Sport Utility Vehicles

Land Rover is exploring the possibility of electric vehicles for the future with a battery-powered prototype of its Defender 110. If an electric Land Rover does eventually come to fruition, it could be the ultimate expression of the company’s “tread lightly” philosophy, which espouses minimizing impact on the environment when driving off-road.

The Electric Defender test vehicle swaps the 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel engine and six-speed manual grearbox of the regular Defender 110 for a 70-kilowatt electric motor that puts out the equivalent of 94 horsepower and 243 foot-pounds of torque. A 27 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, located where the engine normally goes, provides a range of more than 50 miles.

That sounds pretty limited, but a typical off-road scenario has the vehicle crawling along at a snail’s pace over rough terrain rather than blasting down miles of tarmac. And in that kind of scenario, where a Land Rover Defender is most adept, the battery can last for up to eight hours.

The battery can be fully charged by a 7-kilowatt fast charger in four hours, or a 3-kilowatt charger in 10 hours.

The Electric Defender retains the four-wheel-drive hardware and differential lock of the standard Defender and uses a modified version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response System, which uses electronic sensors to adjust power delivery based on surface conditions. What all this means is that the Electric Defender is fully off-road capable.

An electric powertrain is well suited to low-speed off-road driving in several ways. The electric motor delivers 100 percent of its power from the moment it starts, which means there’s no need to shift gears. Thus, the transmission has only one speed. The smooth and immediate, low-speed power delivery also makes the Electric Defender adept at climbing obstacles without having to spin its wheels unnecessarily, which can damage the environment.

Furthermore, Land Rover’s Hill Descent Control, which automatically maintains a steady speed down steep grades, increases the amount of energy gathered through regenerative braking, so the battery gets recharged faster and more efficiently than in normal driving on-road.


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