2 Mar 2013

Land Rover unveils electric Defender. Why?

Land Rover have announced a number of electric Defenders will be developed

Electric engines are not new. In 1827 Ányos Jedlik invented the electric motor. In 1886 Frank Julian Sprague invented the first electric motor that gave constant speed with varying loads.

In 1889 Gottlieb Daimler invented what is now considered to be first internal combustion powered automobile.  A year earlier, in 1888 Andreas Flocken produced the world's first four wheeled electric car.

But then the world realised electric vehicles (EVs) could only go short distances on a charge, and that to recharge the battery would take hours and hours.  So we dumped electric and went down the route of the internal combustion engine which can travel all day without a refill, and when that refill is required it takes seconds.

And then we realised that the world would one day run out of oil (not anytime soon though) and that burning oil based fuels was polluting our atmosphere, so we panicked and decided EVs might be a good idea once more.

Except, because the demand wasn't there no-one had bothered to develop battery technology over the past 120 years.

The pinnacle of EVs is arguably the Tesla Model S.  It looks like a Maserati and does 250 miles on a charge if you stay at a constant 55mph, never slow down or stop, don't use the lights, don't use the radio, don't use the aircon, don't wind down the windows and don't adjust the electric seat.  From empty the Tesla takes about 3.5 hours to recharge.

Until battery technology allows for instant recharging EVs will never become mainstream.

So why Land Rover have announced an electric powered Defender is beyond us.  They've dumped the diesel engine and replaced the space under the bonnet with a battery pack and electric motor.  As a result the electric Defenders weigh 100kg more than their diesel equivalents.

The range is 50 miles.  The recharge time is 4 hours on fast charge and 10 hours with a portable charger.  The electric Defender can recharge it's batteries somewhat when going downhill and braking.

Because the electric motor gives a more constant power delivery the wheels of the Defender make less of a mess of the ground.

“This project is acting as a rolling laboratory for Land Rover to assess electric vehicles, even 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,” said Antony Harper, Jaguar Land Rover Head of Research.

The problem being that the arduous terrain would need to be very close to the charging point so the electric Defenders will struggle to actually find the wilderness they are so good at conquering.

Seven electric Defender prototypes will be made.  Seriously, what's the point?

Until extremely quick charging battery technology is developed electric vehicles might as well be shown up as the fallacies they are.  R&D needs to be spent on batteries, not the vehicles that house them.  We know how to build cars already.