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Is the future all-electric or will we be firing up hydrogen fuel cells?

COVER: Kingsmen Defender

Photo by Craig Pusey

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Hydrogen is coming

DURING a recent meeting of UK Defender owners with factory fitted BMW M52 engines the topic of conversation inevitably turned to fully electric cars. One of the owners is currently having a Volkswagen-approved electric conversion done on his old split screen VW. The conversion is not cheap; in fact you could buy a new Defender for the cost. The reason is not only do they need to use the battery packs and motor from the VW ID.4 but they also need to make changes to the braking and suspension systems.

Another Defender 2.8i owner who has had a Porsche from new commented that if an electric conversion was the only way he could keep his Porsche on the road in the future, then he would seriously consider it. Obviously he has a strong connection to the Porsche and would like to drive it for the rest of his life, just like his Defender 90. Would he convert his Defender if it was affordable and had decent range?

This got me thinking, if VW are already offering these type of conversions, how far away are JLR from doing something similar to classic Land Rovers?

Obviously the cost is still a massive issue. Also would you do the conversion to something with a rotten chassis, sills or doors? When attending the new Range Rover reveal in Gaydon we were told to expect the first new fully-electric Range Rover in 2024. With new Land Rovers just getting bigger and bigger, logic tells me that you will need more battery power to run a fully-electric Range Rover than you would to power a fully-electric Series I.

I know I am getting ahead of myself here. Personally, I don’t think electric cars are the future. How many pavements would we have to dig up and how much infrastructure would we have to create to make it happen?

Meanwhile, as we wait for the arrival of the first fully-electric Land Rover, INEOS, who will soon bring the Grenadier 4x4 to market (don’t worry we won’t devote five pages of editorial to it), have just announced a £1.7 bn investment in green hydrogen production in Europe. Last week Toyota and Tamiya unveiled a 1/10 scale radio control Mirai that runs on a small hydrogen fuel cell under the body. This cell is able to generate 20 watts of electricity, which drives the electric motor. Toyota are also testing the technology in their race cars.

Might hydrogen cells power our Land Rovers in the future? I think they might and if they don’t then I promise to eat this page.

Patrick Cruywagen, @busheditor

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