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Prototype Land Rover Defender Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) will start testing this year

Land Rover has announced that development is underway on a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Defender. The project is all part of Land Rover’s ambition to have no tailpipe emissions on any of its vehicles by 2036 and achieve net zero as a company by 2039.

Testing of the Defender FCEV will begin later this year, suggesting that Land Rover has been squirreling away with hydrogen fuel cell tech for a while now. Introducing the tech – in prototype form at least – is all part of Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘Reimagine’ strategy to electrify vehicles across both Jaguar and Land Rover – the former going EV only by 2025 and the latter welcoming six EVs in the next five years.

JLR is investing some £2.5bn in the plan, and the FCEV Defender is part of ‘Project Zeus’. Its part funded by the government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre and “will allow engineers to understand how a hydrogen powertrain can be optimised to deliver the performance and capability expected by its customers: from range to refuelling and towing to off-road ability.”

To this end, the Defender FCEV project is paying special attention to off-road capabilities and fuel consumption.

Land Rover isn’t going it alone, having teamed up with Delta Motorsport, AVL, Marelli Automotive Systems and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre to deliver Project Zeus and create a working, viable prototype FCEV.

According to Ralph Clague, Head of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells for Jaguar Land Rover: “We know hydrogen has a role to play in the future powertrain mix across the whole transport industry, and alongside battery electric vehicles, it offers another zero tailpipe emissions solution for the specific capabilities and requirements of Jaguar Land Rover’s world class line-up of vehicles. The work done alongside our partners in Project Zeus will help us on our journey to become a net zero carbon business by 2039, as we prepare for the next generation of zero tailpipe emissions vehicles.”

JLR points to the near doubling of FCEVs on the world’s roads, the 20 per cent increase in hydrogen fuelling stations and the predicted increase to up to 10 million FCEVs and 10,000 fuelling stations globally as impetus to pursue hydrogen technology.

Discover EV’s take

Hydrogen power most certainly has a role to play in the future powertrain mix. The challenge has, and remains, in what application does hydrogen make the most sense – with many commentators, including us, seeing it as a great solution for heavy vehicles such as buses and lorries rather than personal transport. As a fuel source, it’s incredibly energy-intensive to produce and therefore far less efficient than electricity from a battery.

That being said, it would be silly to rule it out, and a hydrogen economy is high on the government’s agenda so there’s a good chance that the infrastructure will develop far faster over the next decade than it has to date. We look forward to seeing how the Land Rover Defender FCEV performs and the future of the brand’s hydrogen fuel plans unfolding.  

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