- The new Range Rover is the most important vehicle in the Land Rover range.
- Like the rest of the automotive industry, the British brand wants to go electric in the years to come.
- The Range Rover could be a great vehicle for the transition, but it won’t be easy.
Land Rover Creative Director Gerry McGovern had a primary mission in designing the all-new Range Rover, he said: “Don’t ruin it.”
That’s a good goal – Range Rover and Range Rover Sport account for one-third of Land Rover’s annual US sales – but not straightforward. For Land Rover, the latest rendition of its signature vehicle meant addressing three key challenges that lay at the center of its future.
A convincing electric Range Rover
What you can’t see in the new Range Rover which debuted at the end of October is that this is the vehicle that will begin to fulfill Land Rover’s promise to offer electrified versions of all of its products. Three months after the model’s launch next spring, Land Rover (one-armed Jaguar Land Rover, owned by Indian conglomerate Tata) will launch a plug-in hybrid version promising 60 miles of electric range. This is just the warm-up for 2024, when the company will roll out an all-electric Range Rover.
This 2024 timeline may seem like it’s lagging behind as Land Rover’s competitors roll out heaps of new electric vehicles every year. Rob Filipovic, the brand’s director of product planning, told Insider that this makes it easier to deal with supply chain delays triggered by a pandemic and to take advantage of rapid improvements in technology.
“As battery technology improves, we are better able to cope with larger vehicles, greater weight and even off-road capabilities,” said Filipovic. This has allowed the brand to work to address any compromise on battery power in what a Range Rover has to be: well-designed, luxurious, capable and versatile.
There are other issues at stake. First, automakers don’t really have a choice to go electric. “Regions, countries, states and fleets are setting themselves more ambitious decarbonization goals,” said John Voelcker, journalist and automotive analyst specializing in electric vehicles. “So they have to move their customer base and their product development towards that.”
Take the money
It is also difficult for smaller automakers like Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) to cope with the massive development costs associated with switching from gasoline to electric, even though they are owned by larger international automakers like JLR by Tata.
“JLR didn’t even sell half a million vehicles worldwide last year, so they’re a lot smaller than Subaru or Mazda, and these are two companies that don’t really have the money to develop them. – even electric vehicles, “Voelcker said, noting that these two automakers have partnered with Toyota for the R&D and production of electric vehicles. “It is a particular challenge for a company of its size, compared to behemoths like General Motors or the Volkswagen group.”
For reference, between 2020 and 2025, GM will invest $ 35 billion, VW $ 86 billion. Tata has just announced an investment of $ 2 billion, and this is only after raising an additional $ 1 billion from outside funds.
To meet this challenge, Land Rover has partnered with BMW to develop “electric drive units,” Filipovic said, which include the engine, transmission and module that optimize the conversion of electricity into motivational power. . (The brand would not name any of its other EV technology partners, including in battery development.)
Adding to these challenges is the complexity of creating transition vehicles that can run on diesel, gasoline, plug-in hybrid or full battery power, before JLR moves on to selling fully electric vehicles. “It’s relatively easier to build an electric vehicle from scratch,” Voelcker said.
JLR has a long history of great innovation and has often been the first to integrate new technologies. But it didn’t always work in his favor. In 2018, it became one of the first historic automakers to launch a fully electric luxury vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace. While this vehicle was surprisingly compelling, it was ahead of consumer tastes and felt a bit rushed into the market.
“The I-Pace is still one of my favorite vehicles to drive. I would never own one,” Voelcker said. “Even after three model years, it still looks like a beta development pre-production prototype.” The brand has sold just over 5,000 units in the United States since its introduction, a window in which Tesla has sold nearly a million electric vehicles.
Fortunately for Land Rover, electric power makes sense. “Electrification doesn’t change what a Land Rover is, or what it means,” Filipovic said. “The main advantages you get are in terms of refinement: a more relaxed driving experience and even quieter and calm inside. And off-road and performance-wise, you get incredible low-end torque. available to you when and where you need it. “
Voelcker agreed. “The idea of getting off the road, going into wild areas in complete silence, along with the precise control that electric motors give you, makes very good off-road riders,” he said. “Electric motors are perfect for the kinds of things Range Rovers are known for and do best for.”