Land Rover brought seven Defender battery-electric vehicles to the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. This all-electric truck emerged from a partnership with Axeon to produce an environmentally friendly vehicle for safaris. The Defender EV research vehicle is versatile enough to be converted into a truck, wagon or SUV based on consumer demand. The automaker does not have production plans for the Defender EV but the vehicles shown at Geneva will be sent around the world for road testing in fall 2013. Land Rover might be keeping one foot firmly in the past with the Defender’s body design but an innovative drive system is pulling the company into the 21st century.
The original Defender 110 uses a six-speed manual transmission and a 90 kW diesel engine for off-road capability. Land Rover replaced these components with a 70 kW electric motor and a 27 kWh lithium-ion battery that provide all-electric propulsion. The Defender EV uses air cooling for the battery pack, motor and electronic components rather than liquid cooling to simplify vehicle operation. This process also reduces overall battery weight and decreases complexities that can increase repair costs. Land Rover maintained all-wheel drive and the Terrain Response System in the Defender EV in an appeal to the company’s traditional customers.
The design team tasked with creating the Defender EV was concerned with the placement, weight and charge capacity of the battery pack. The pack’s placement on the front axle provides better distribution of vehicle weight. Land Rover notes that the pack weighs only 904 pounds and the Defender EV only weighs 220 pounds more than the Defender 110. The all-electric truck varies between 4,530 pounds and 4,766 pounds depending on trim level. The Defender EV can travel up to 50 miles per charge with the possibility of eight hours of operation at low speeds. A portable 3 kW charger can replenish the battery in ten hours with four-hour charges possible using a 7 kW quick-charge unit.
Another element of the Defender EV’s drive system is a smart combination of the Hill Descent Control and regenerative braking. These features allow the vehicle to generate up to 30 kW for the battery pack by collecting energy from the brakes. Land Rover notes that 80% of brake energy can be recuperated in the Defender EV, allowing the driver to stay on the road without inconvenient stops at a nearby outlet. A maximum range of 50 miles per charge might seem miniscule compared to other plug-in models but Land Rover is on the right track in terms of all-electric propulsion.
The Defender EV is an offshoot of the Leopard 1 test vehicle produced by Land Rover’s Advanced Engineering Team in 2011. This research model designed in conjunction with Axeon was focused on travel companies offering outdoor excursions in South Africa. The Leopard 1 used a 28.8 kWh battery pack and a 59 kW electric motor to accommodate short-range tours. Land Rover has announced strenuous testing conditions for the Defender EV. A chain of tests that include pulling 12 tons up a hill with a 13% grade and wading through 30 inches of water should show the vehicle’s mettle.