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Will Jaguar Land Rover develop an electric Land Rover Defender?


The future is undoubtedly electric for Jaguar Land Rover.

The Coventry car maker’s new boss Thierry Bollore unveiled his vision of an electric future just a few weeks ago.

The focus of that will be Jaguar first and foremost, with the Big Cat set to become an all-electric brand by 2025.

Land Rover will follow suit but Land Rover’s journey to electrification will be slightly different.

While it will follow the electric trend that is being pursued relentlessly by the entire automotive industry, Land Rover will still be making vehicles with internal combustion engines after the UK Government’s 2030 cut-off.

That’s because there are other world markets where Land Rover does good business, which will still be behind the electric curve at that point.

There’s also an issue with the kind of vehicles Land Rover makes.

Large SUVs are less suited to electric power as they need big and powerful batteries to do the job.

There are also issues with battery power for the kind of off-road motoring that SUVs are often required to undertake.

Another thing to factor into the equation is that of hydrogen-powered cars – another kind of zero emission technology.

Mr Bollore said the company would continue to develop hydrogen fuel cell prototypes as part of its pursuit of lean and green vehicle production.

So, the question many want to know is will there be an all-electric version of Land Rover’s new Defender?

CoventryLive spoke to Dr Charles Tennant to consider the question.

Mr Tennant, who lives in Warwickshire, is a former chief engineer of Land Rover and also sat on the board of Tata Technologies.



Dr Charles Tennant

Where is Jaguar Land Rover at in terms of its electrification plans?

Charles Tennant (CT):“Jaguar Land Rover have been in the news a lot lately with the shocking revelation they have cancelled their new luxury electric Jaguar XJ saloon and talk of beguiling more discerning customers with stunning drop-dead gorgeous designs, in a brand rejuvenating last roll of the dice.

“They are now designing (or possibly buying in) a brand-new battery electric vehicle (BEV) platform to achieve this all by 2025.

“Now they are big on strategy but there is little detail on the type or size of Jaguars they will design for the future – amid much speculation of grand tourer coupes and cabriolets – with a sports car and maybe an SUV in the product plan.

“We do know they want to be ahead of the technology curve so it may be that a technically advanced in-house BEV platform is the way to go, especially as that will eliminate design compromise due to pre-set geometric hard points that come with using someone else’s platform.”

How does it differ for Jaguar and Land Rover?

CT: “Now Jaguar is in a new mode with the current vehicle range in a run-out phase whilst the new electric vehicles are being designed, and Castle Bromwich will not be manufacturing vehicles from 2025.

“But what about Land Rover whose own future seems to be more complicated?

“With Jaguar Land Rover aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2039 it must also contribute and is planning to phase out diesel engines and produce six new BEV vehicles within five years.

“It aims for 60% of its range to be zero tailpipe emissions by 2030 (with the balance being made up by 10% plug-in hybrid and 30% mild or standard hybrid all with petrol engines) and has further plans for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to achieve zero-emission compliance by 2036.

“Whilst Land Rover will electrify its vehicles at a slower pace than Jaguar it has other work to do – generate profitable sales to fund the Reimagine transformation plan.

“Land Rover’s new products will now be designed off two platforms. Their Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA) platform has already been designed to flexibly accommodate internal combustion engines, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and BEVs (and was to be used by Jaguar also) but is now to be exclusive to Land Rover initially used for Range Rover and Range Rover Sport within the next 18 months.

“Whereas a new ‘native electric’ platform called Electrified Modular Architecture (EMA) will be designed, to produce the next generation Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque as plug-in hybrid (with lean burn combustion petrol engines) and battery electric only.

“The EMA platform will be produced from 2024 and will be engineered around an underfloor battery, with a flat floor incorporating 800v electric drive units (EDUs) designed by Jaguar Land Rover, with an efficient 4.5 miles per kWh and they will be the most torque dense in class.

“I expect the Range Rover Velar to also be produced off the EMA platform, but it will probably go fully electric as a BEV only to differentiate it from the Evoque.

“With MLA and EMA Jaguar Land Rover are reducing from six to three platforms which will significantly reduce costs and improve productivity.”

And what of the new Defender?

CT: “So where does the mighty Defender fit into this master plan?

“After a four-year hiatus Land Rover bet their birthright on being able to design a new Defender that would be a profitable sales winner.

“And since its launch last year it has been very well received by the motoring press as a handsome successor to the original icon.

“It is their most capable vehicle ever, with the best off-road ability and a very civilised and refined on-road driving experience – something which eluded its predecessor.

“Its off-road prowess is achieved through height-adjustable suspension, permanent all-wheel drive, low range transmission, locking centre and active rear locking differentials; all dynamically controlled by a Terrain Response and Hill Descent technology.

“Wading depth is now 900mm rather than 500mm and it can go almost anywhere at ease and has certainly captured Land Rover’s DNA as the Best 4×4 by Far.

“And customers agree too, with 16,286 sales in the December quarter alone, building it in Slovakia rather than at its spiritual home in Solihull home is clearly not an inhibitor.

“Currently available in 90 and 110 wheelbase there is now talk of a 130 wheelbase and a maybe pick-up truck too.

“With Discovery 5 sales languishing at 4,831 in the last quarter Land Rover now have high expectations for the Defender delivering profitable sales growth.”

The latest Defender unveiled is a performance-focused V8. Isn’t that going in the opposite direction to electrification?

CT: “Remarkably in these electrified emission reducing times, Land Rover have recently followed a long tradition of shoehorning V8 petrol engines into Defenders, with a fire breathing 518bhp supercharged £100,000 version that has sports car like 0-60mph times of 4.9 seconds.

“But with sub 20mpg if this gas guzzler is too much then you can take either the new six-cylinder petrol engine versions – or the Defender P400e instead, which is a plug-in hybrid combining a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor, providing an impressive 398bhp and 85.3mpg with low CO2 emissions of 74g/km, but it only has 27 miles of range on pure electric power alone.”

There are some electric Defenders of sorts though. What are they?

CT: “If you want a BEV Defender right now there is no option but to purchase a converted previous generation version.

“Twisted, the Yorkshire-based Land Rover specialist produces an electric conversion kit priced from £69,950 with a single electric motor sending power through the original transfer box and locking differentials.

“It has a 60kWh battery pack giving up to 320bhp and a 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds with 3,500kg of towing capacity and a 200-mile range.

“East Coast Defender based in Florida convert old Defenders with Tesla BEV systems and are priced from $169,995 with a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds and a 220-mile range.”

Is an electric new Defender on the way – if so then when?

CT: “Whilst these conversion companies make no real mention of off-road capability Land Rover say electric SUVs will not compromise off-road performance.

“In a recipe for the perfect off-roader BEVs have superb torque delivery, great weight distribution and massive flexibility how power is delivered to each wheel.

“These characteristics offer Land Rover engineers the opportunity for moving their own benchmark for the best 4×4 further and higher.

“Whilst it is obvious that Land Rover will produce a BEV Defender (and maybe later a hydrogen FCEV), I would imagine it will figure much later in the plan (post 2025), especially with annual investment capped at £2.5 billion and all those Jaguars to design and tool up first.

Footage below of Jaguar Land Rover getting ready for the Formula E electric race season


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“Land Rover have already done some work on Defender electrification and at the Geneva Motor Show in 2013 they unveiled seven electric research Defenders, developed by their Advanced Engineering Team, following successful trials of a previous electric Defender-based project called Leopard 1.

“But back then the technology gave low performance with lithium-ion batteries rated at a lowly 27kWh giving a pitiful range of around 50 miles.

“But those compromises will not trouble the new electric Defender as the technology curve has advanced to vehicle ranges of 300 miles plus.”

Are there issues given the Defender’s usage off-road?

CT: “The Defender is classed as a category 4B vehicle – meaning it needs durability above a normal production car just below full military vehicle specification – and that brings with it higher demands for a BEV version.

“The current Defender is built off the aluminium D7X (extreme) platform, which is three times stronger than its closest rivals, so the BEV Defender off the MLA platform will have to be designed and tested to the same tough targets, including 200mm kerb strikes at 30mph and seven tonne vertical loads through the suspension.

“And it will have to cope with a very arduous test programme as the current Defender was put through the most comprehensive yet; where 200 cars were tested across the globe covering 1.2 million miles through deserts, the Arctic, and high altitude.

“The vehicle engineering was signed off against 62,000 test criteria prior to launch.

“This included extreme event testing such as the effect of kerb strikes, bridge jumps, and pothole breaks on wheels, suspension, and engine mounts.

“Whole life vehicle testing was carried out on a six-post rig, 24 hours a day seven days a week for eight weeks, simulating 10 years or 150,000 miles of use.”

Following on from that what about the Defender’s almost amphibious qualities and how they might relate to electric power?

CT: “Apart from durability we may ask how an electric Defender will cope with water immersion particularly as it has a wading depth specification of 900mm?

“Well hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles are designed to be safe even when fully submerged in water as the high voltage system is isolated from the vehicle chassis; and the battery pack, electric motors and electronic drive units are all sealed units.

“The Jaguar I-Pace BEV has a wading depth of 500mm and incorporates safety systems to deal with a flood situation.

“The plug-in hybrid Range Rover has a wading depth of 900mm and Twisted claim a depth of 800mm for their own electric Defender conversions.

“So, they are safe in water but the electrical system on the Defender goes much further, being designed to IP67 standards, meaning it can be submerged for an hour underwater without any damage, so this may pose an additional challenge for the engineers.

“There will be high expectations for an electric Defender as it will have to deliver outstanding off-road capability and on-road civility, with the extreme durability we have come to expect of Land Rover’s icon.”

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