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Electrification will not hinder Land Rover characteristics

Electric terrain: Land Rover already offers a hybrid version of its Range Rover Sport, teaming a 3.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel V6 with an electric motor, but it believes full electric SUVs could make the ultimate off-roader.

Future Land Rovers to retain off-road capability despite range-wide electrification

22 Sep 2017

WHILE all new Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) models from 2020 onwards will feature some form of electrification, the new powertrain options will not hinder Land Rover’s go-anywhere capability according to JLR Australia managing director Matthew Wiesner.

Speaking to GoAuto earlier this week at the launch of the new Range Rover Velar, Mr Wiesner said ongoing technology development will solve pure electric vehicle (EV) shortcomings such as range, while the short- to mid-term solution will be internal combustion engine-assisted plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrains.

“Everything that Land Rover stands for is about capability and that can’t change,” he said. “As (battery) technology continues to improve … based on the degree of development, range should continually improve.

“In this immediate term, the PHEV technology would be the best first step into that space because then you have your range covered. When you don’t have charge you’ve got your internal combustion engine to take you above and beyond.”

However, Mr Wiesner hinted that when full electric Land Rovers do come to market, they may even out-perform their petrol- and diesel-powered predecessors.

“When you go one day (to full EVs) because you’ve got the range in the battery technology right and everything else, from an off-road capability point of view, it shouldn’t be an issue because you’ve got sealed engines … (and) you’ve got sealed batteries – you can’t get water in them, you can’t get dust in them,” he said.

“So arguably when you talk about true off-roading, in many cases, you’d have to say the technology actually means you’re probably event better prepared.

“You could take it anywhere, so you could also argue it could enhance what we do as a fully capable off-road brand. It will be interesting as to how that evolves in that space.”

While high-capacity battery packs ensure a longer driving range, they can also add weight and take away useable vehicle space. However, pure EVs also do away with the need for a traditional transmission or gearbox, freeing both space and weight up for more batteries.

Mr Wiesner said the challenges in designing an electric off-roader opens up opportunities to improve the driveability of an SUV.

“As the technology improves – the battery range and storage improves – the weight challenges become less of an issue, but at the same time being an SUV, you carry a bit of extra weight anyway,” he said.

“A diesel engine is not a light thing, and one day when you don’t have that big, heavy six-cylinder diesel engine up front, you have better weight distribution across the platform, again another way of maybe enhancing your off-road capabilities as well.”

Despite the lack of EV charging infrastructure currently in Australia, Mr Wiesner said the local division of JLR is “100 per cent” behind the move to electrify its new vehicle range from the turn of the decade.

“As far as we’re concerned, that’s the future, that’s where we’re rolling our dice, as is a big chunk of the majority of the industry,” he said. “We see battery electrification technology as the way forward.”

JLR Australia is part of a consortium of premium car brands in Australia planning to construct its own EV charging network Down Under to rival Tesla’s already-established Supercharger network as governments – both state and federal – remain inactive on electric infrastructure.

Mr Wiesner said with larger markets around the world quickly adopting EVs, Australia will be left with no choice but to embrace the new technology or risk being left with ageing and uncompetitive vehicles.

“If enough markets around the world which are bigger than us take that lead – especially when you look at China, if you look at North America, Japan and Western Europe – if they’re all pushing in that space, then quite frankly, Australia’s got no choice because the product will be ‘this is what we’ve got’,” he said.

“Therefore, we better start making some decisions because otherwise we’re going to be driving around in our old things for a bit longer. So eventually, probably that will take control of the ‘when’ because that’s what’s coming at us.”

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