Land Rover Range_e plug-in hybrid: a refined prototype

January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Went up to Jaguar Land Rover today to take a drive in the Range_e plug-in hybrid prototype; more detailed story plus video will be posted at The Charging Point early next week, but in the meantime, here’s a bare-bones lowdown.

JLR has five Range_e prototypes (first seen at last year’s Geneva Show) running around on real-world road-testing, as part of the government-backed CABLED programme. This 24-month project is near to close now but has, say insiders, yielded loads of useful data and feedback from users.

Range_e is based on the Range Rover Sport – though this is not necessarily the model in which the tech will make its production debut – and has the standard-issue 245hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, new JLR eight-speed auto gearbox plus a 69kW electric motor and lithium-ion battery which can be recharged from a domestic power socket. All-electric range is around 20 miles – easily achieved in the tests so far, apparently – and total range 690 miles; combined fuel economy is 85mpg and CO2 emissions average 89g/km, and JLR promises that both road performance and off-road ability will be uncompromised (it’s permanent all-wheel drive, with front, rear and locking central differentials).

It starts up in all-electric mode – unless the battery has insufficient charge – and can run at normal urban speeds within the electric range; under acceleration or for high-speed cruising, the electric-drive supplements the engine. At the moment, it’s all automatic, but production vehicles will have selectable modes (i.e. sports or energy-saving) and the next stage of the programme is to fine-tune the switches between the different power sources and the different modes. As it stands, however, the prototypes are already pretty refined – albeit with some temporary measures such as cloth seats, to save weight (production models are unlikely to skimp on the sumptuous Range Rover leather, and weight will be saved by other measures, such as more aluminium components).

Though a conventional diesel-electric hybrid is scheduled to make its debut next year, a plug-in Land Rover model is still a few years from production. The good news, though, is that the technology is scalable and potentially suitable for application in all the models across the Jaguar Land Rover line-up, subject to issues of cost being resolved. Work also continues on plug-in petrol-electric and range-extender tech, as per the Jaguar XJ-based Limo Green demo car, and JLR isn’t ruling out all-electric or hydrogen/fuel cell cars at some point in the future either.

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