The Land Rover Defender is a classic vehicle that is known all over the world for its off-road capabilities — and Land Rover just announced that it is hard at work on an electric-hybrid powertrain for the iconic vehicle. Land Rover plans to unveil seven new electrified versions of the current Defender at the Geneva Motor Show, which kicks off next week.

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In 2011 Land Rover previewed the possible direction for the next Defender with the DC100 concepts and its been reported that the automaker is working on a new hybrid powertrain for its SUV lineup. By electrifying the current Defender, Land Rover is testing the abilities of an electric powertrain in more extreme, off-road conditions. “Investing in innovation has always been the lifeblood of our business and our engineering teams are working hard to develop innovative new technology to provide sustainable motoring solutions,” said John Edwards, Land Rover Global Brand Director.

The electric Defender’s standard diesel engine and transmission have been replaced by a 94 horsepower electric motor that is mated to a 300-volt, lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 27kWh, giving the SUV a range of more than 50 miles. In typical, low speed off-road use it can last for up to eight hours before recharging. The battery can be fully charged by a 7kW fast charger in four hours, or a portable 3kW charger in 10 hours.

The vehicles were developed by Land Rover’s Advanced Engineering Team following successful trials of the Defender-based electric vehicle, Leopard 1. The vehicles’ capability has been tested in extreme and environmentally sensitive conditions, demonstrating capabilities not shared by conventional road-going EVs. Trials included pulling a 12-ton ‘road train’ up a 13 percent gradient and wading to a depth of 31-inches.

“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.

+ Land Rover