May 232011

The famous four-wheel drive products of UK carmaker Land Rover have long been known for several things. Tradition? Yep. Off-road capability? Sure. Style? Sometimes debatable but overall, we’d say yes. Environmental responsibility?

Until recently, the closest any product from Land Rover was likely to get in terms of green would be the characteristic drab olive of the rugged (and ancient) Land Rover off-road utility trucks or perhaps a smear of squashed plants after a big Range Rover has forced its way up a narrow forest track. That has changed in the last few months, however.

Recently, Land Rover showed up at the 2011 Geneva motor show with a plug-in electric and diesel hybrid Range Rover. Called the Range_e, the behemoth looks every bit the boulevardier so beloved of Miami rappers, LA producers and Chelsea cruisers.

This electric-powered Range Rover Sport features a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 engine running through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The added electric motor can power the Range_e for about 20 miles, which should just about get you to the next West London traffic queue.

Land Rover Range E - Eco Car

Land Rover Range E - Eco Car

Once you’ve successfully negotiated a few roundabouts and slotted in place on the A4, you’ll be able to chug along for about 700 more miles using the diesel power. An eco-power football-mom Messiah the Range_e definitely ain’t but it’s at least heartening to see yet another luxury car maker trying to figure out how it can help the planet instead of simply trying to stomp it into submission.

Away from the comfy climes of London’s West End and Hollywood studio car parks, some drivers really do use Land Rovers to tackle the wild outdoors. In some places, that outdoors is so wild that you really want to be able to sneak around as quietly and as cleanly as possible.

This is where you might turn to Axeon. The top independent developer and producer of lithium-ion battery systems in Europe, Axeon recently worked with South Africa’s Jaguar Land Rover to develop a specially-modified Land Rover Defender.

This all-electric Defender is used within game parks, where drivers need to keep the noise and pollution down as much as possible. The specific vehicle in question here is the 110 High Capacity Pick Up.

This quiet and green version has had its standard 2.4-litre diesel engine removed. In its place has gone a battery-power system from Axeon.

In many eco-cars, engineers use the packaging flexibility of electric power to ensure the car’s cabin is as spacious as possible. In this application, the engineers needed to maintain the Defender’s ability to ford deep streams and clamber over objects. Therefore, the power pack is designed to fit within the normal engine bay.

Thanks to the green power pack, this Defender produces no gases at the tailpipe, with minimal noise. Though Axeon had a relatively short time in which to develop the specialised power system, the firm still managed to give the modified Defender an all-electric range in the region of three times that needed for a normal game drive.

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