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by Tim Beissmann

Seven trailblazing Land Rover Electric Defender research cars will be unveiled in Geneva next week as the British car maker showcases its pioneering work in off-road electric vehicle development.

In one of the most significant technological undertakings in the manufacturer’s 65-year history, the Land Rover Defender EVs swap the standard Defender’s diesel powertrain for a 70kW/330Nm electric motor, a 27kWh lithium-ion battery and a single-speed transmission.

What hasn’t changed is Land Rover’s four-wheel-drive system – which is fed peak torque from the electric motor the moment the throttle is pressed – and the standard car’s differential lock. The Electric Defender also features a modified version of the brand’s Terrain Response system, which is designed to maximise traction in all conditions.

Land Rover says the electric prototype has proven itself capable across extreme and environmentally sensitive conditions, pulling a 12-tonne road train up a 13 per cent gradient and wading to a depth of 800mm during the testing phase.

Despite having a driving range of approximately 80km, Land Rover says the Electric Defender’s battery can last for up to eight hours in typical low-speed off-road conditions. A full recharge takes four hours from a fast charger and 10 hours from a portable charger.

While the battery pack weighs 410kg, the Defender EV is only 100kg heavier than the standard Defender 110 wagon. All the major components of the electric powertrain – including the battery, motor and inverter – are air-cooled rather than liquid-cooled to save weight, limit complexity and increase robustness.

Jaguar Land Rover head of research Antony Harper said the Electric Defender program was a rolling laboratory for the company to assess EVs 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,” Harper said.

While there are no plans for Land Rover Electric Defender to enter production, the seven development cars presented at next week’s Geneva motor show will go into service in specialist applications later this year.




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