Land Rover already revealed production-ready plug-in hybrid versions of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, but it appears the company hasn't finished tinkering with battery-powered off-roaders. Land Rover plans to experiment with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full-electric powertrains using the Range Rover Evoque platform, a research project it calls Evoque_e.
Evoque_e involves eight automotive suppliers and three universities, although Land Rover is at the helm and has fronted about $6.2 million of its own money, on top of which a U.K. government grant supplies $25.4 million in researching funding. Land Rover helps to develop modular electrification systems that could be plugged into an existing vehicle. That includes electric drive motors, battery packs, transmissions, and the electronics necessary to control all those components. Other goals include increasing electric motor performance, improving battery performance while reducing dependence on rare-earth metals, and developing torque-vectoring systems, which direct more power to certain wheels.
The goal of the Evoque_e project is for the involved teams to build three working vehicles, a mild hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a full-electric model. All will be based on the Range Rover Evoque and must meet Land Rover's criteria for volume production and sale. In other words, this isn't simply an engineering exercise, but rather the first step in Land Rover's development of future electrified models.
"The outcome of the Evoque_e project will be new technologies with the potential for high volume production that are capable of delivering benchmark performance in terms of cost, weight and sustainable use of materials," Jaguar Land Rover director of hybrids and electrification Peter Richings said in a statement.
The technologies will certainly be more advanced than the ambitious plug-in hybrid system already deployed for the 2014 Land Rover Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. The new SUVs were designed from the outset to accommodate a hybrid drivetrain, along with the necessary batteries and electronics, and both Range Rover hybrids go on sale in the U.K. early next year.
In those models, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 works with an electric motor/generator to return as much as 36.7 mpg U.S., yet Land Rover says the plug-in Range Rovers retain the same off-roading, wading, and other performance characteristics as the standard versions. Adding the plug-in hybrid system adds only 265 pounds to the weight of a Range Rover or Range Rover Sport, so both models can accelerate to 60 mph in under seven seconds.
Given that Land Rover can't bring the plug-in hybrids to the U.S. markets because their turbodiesel engines don't meet our strict emissions laws, it seems logical that the hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies developed as part of the Evoque_e project will be tailored to the American market. Stay tuned for more details; development work on Range Rover Evoque_e starts in October.