Long before the advent of the ‘Chelsea tractor’, the Land Rover Defender was a design classic, synonymous with agriculture and country living.
But as production has ceased in the UK, and no electric Land Rover Defender models are on the market, scientists at the University of Cardiff and electric-refit specialist firm Electrogenic have released a “drop-in” kit which converts old Defenders into fully electric vehicles.
According to the team, the kit includes an electric motor bolted onto the vehicle’s existing clutch bell housing which allows it to keep all of its gears, and includes a number of 52kWh batteries mounted under the bonnet.
The result is an electric engine with “comparable” power to the original combustion engines, meaning the vehicles retain their versatility for off-road terrain and heavy towing capability.
The kit can provide over 100 miles of range on-road, and “considerably more” when driving off-road or around a farm.
The team said it can extend the life of these agricultural workhorses by 200,000 miles or more.
The vehicles were launched at the Glastonbury Festival over the weekend.
Cardiff University’s principal investigator on the project, Professor Carol Featherston, said: “Off-road vehicles are a notable source of hidden carbon emissions that have long been overlooked in our pursuit of net zero. However, they are also a vital part of farming operations all over the country.
“Between 2014 and 2021, just under 30,000 Land Rovers were declared Sorn [given a statutory off-road notification in the UK].
“Through this collaboration with Electrogenic, we’ve used our expertise to come up with a sustainable solution to this problem and ensure that Land Rovers can continue to play a key role in supporting the farming economy while at the same time significantly reducing carbon emissions.”
The team said that up until now, there has been no electric-powered version of the Land Rover that is close to being available to the market, while the off-road energy usage of four-wheel-drive vehicles is poorly understood.
Steve Drummond, Electrogenic co-founder, said: “This new electric conversion kit is a really exciting development for us. We do high-specification conversions for road warriors, but this kit is all about giving landowners an economic, sustainable option.
“It gives Land Rover Defenders – long a trusty workhorse for farms up and down the country – an affordable new lease of life, reducing running costs while enhancing performance and driveability around the estate.”
He added that the kit “future-proofs the traditional Defender, readying it for decades of reliable, sustainable service as we enter the age of low-carbon agriculture”.