Land Rover Defender (2011) goes EV for safari concept

Published: 09 May 2011

The Land Rover Defender is one of the less-likely candidates to be gaining an EV drivetrain. But here it is: the Land Rover Electric Defender Game Viewer Concept, built for zero-emissions silent transport of tourists around Africa’s wildlife parks.

Land Rover Defender EV: the lowdown

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) South Africa worked with local specialists Barker Performance Products and UK-based lithium-ion battery supplier Axeon to create the Electric Game Viewer concept. Out went the 2.4-litre four-pot turbodiesel engine, to be replaced by a bespoke Axeon Li-ion battery pack and integrated battery management system. The entire EV power-pack sits in the nose, to ensure that the Defender retains its ground clearance and wading capability. 

A 59kW, 330NM electric motor with 10kW regenerative capability drives the Defender through the existing four-wheel drive transmission, so it remains fully capable of operating off-road. Perfect for creeping up on sensitive rhino and the like.

What’s the Defender EV’s range? I don’t fancy getting stuck in the wild…

JLR quote a range of 50 miles assuming an average speed of 40mph over an eight-hour tourist game viewing drive – three times the duration of a typical tourist trek. In addition, there’s a 12-mile reserve should the Defender EV have to drive further or faster over the course of the day. 

As a single-purpose vehicle on set routes, range anxiety shouldn’t be an issue, with the Defender EV being charged back at base after each journey.

So who came up with the idea for the Defender EV?

The project began following an enquiry from from Londolozi, one of South Africa’s private game parks, who were seeking an ecologically-friendly vehicle for their tourism programme. After conversion into a game viewer by Barker Performance Parts and integration of the Axeon EV drivetrain, the vehicle was tested at the Gerotek Vehicle Testing facility near Pretoria by JLR engineers and test drivers.

As well as retaining the off-road capabilities of the standard game viewer conversions, the silence of the EV drive means that the Defender EV can get visitors closer to the animals in the game park – particularly handy for Londolozi’s photo safari tour for wildlife photographers. An additional benefit to go with the zero-emissions technology.

Is the Defender EV only for Africa?

At this point the Defender electric Game Viewer is a concept only, and its launch at the Indaba 2011 tourism conference in Durban, South Africa emphasises the commercial target market for the vehicle. But the EV technology could easily be applied to other applications requiring zero emissions or silent running, so this may not be the last we see of the Defender EV conversion.