Liberty Electric Range RoverMay 25, 2011
You can now place an order for an all-electric Range Rover, and Green-Car-Guide has driven a final pre-production car.
The car isn’t being brought to market by Land Rover, but instead by Liberty Electric Cars. Liberty is a relatively recent start-up company, and the E-Range is the firm’s main product.
Everything about the E-Range is high-end. The car itself starts life as a new Range Rover, then Liberty removes the diesel engine and replaces it with electric motors and batteries. The main lithium-polymer battery pack sits underneath the car and there are four electric motors, one for each wheel. At 75 kW, the battery is the largest battery pack that has ever been used in an EV, and the unit is expected to have a life of 300,000 miles or 13 years. Liberty manufactures its own batteries in-house.
The result of the layout of the technology in the car is that there is zero impact upon the space inside the car – and that includes the boot. At the moment, due to the battery, there is a slight reduction in the ground clearance compared to a standard Range Rover, however the battery is likely to be re-engineered to offer the same clearance as the production car.
The E-Range has one motor per wheel, in other words four-wheel drive, so the off-road capability of the car promises to be comparable to that of the standard vehicle – with the added bonus of instant torque from the four electric motors.
Overall, it will be completely familiar territory to a Range Rover owner. This is a good thing. Inside, it’s virtually identical to the production car. There is currently a separate electric charge indicator on the dash, but the plan is to incorporate that into the digital instrument panel. The car comes with an automatic transmission selector, although it doesn’t have the ‘stepped’ gear changes of a conventional automatic.
Starting the car just requires a press of the start/stop button, then with the sliding of the gear selector into drive, you’re away. The new electric steering has been weighted in a similar way to the production model, but this can be adjusted to make it lighter or heavier if required. The car also has regenerative braking, which again can be set to recover more or less energy.
Once underway, in the centre of London, the electric car experience begins. The car is quiet at all times – when moving, and also when stationary at London’s many traffic lights and queues – and of course it has zero tailpipe emissions. No gear changing is required, making the normal hassle of driving in a city an effortless experience.
The acceleration feels smooth, and certainly sufficient for London traffic. Liberty claims a 0-60 mph time of just 7 seconds. Top speed is close to 100 mph now, and it is likely to hit 100 mph by the time the first production cars are ready. The car also has a 200-mile range, which is one of the largest ranges of any electric car on sale, so overall the E-Range boasts a very impressive set of statistics.
The car can be recharged using a standard domestic electricity supply, when a full recharge may take up to 10 hours. It can also be recharged using a fast charger, which would take between one to three hours. It will also be possible to recharge the vehicle using induction or wireless charging, although this recharging technology is not yet commercially available. The cost of recharging the E-Range is around one-fifth of the cost of petrol.
Okay, so a Range Rover may not be as sensible as a small city car for urban driving, but there is a definite market for this vehicle. Take the recent Royal Wedding – virtually every limousine had a Range Rover in tow with security teams inside. Every one of those Range Rovers could have been completely silent and zero-emission.
However it’s not just urban 4×4 users that Liberty has its sights on. With a range of 200 miles, this isn’t just a 4×4 that has to stick within city limits. The company already has an order, worth £24 million, for 150 E-Ranges from an Icelandic energy company. An electric Range Rover sounds like an expensive company car, but due to import taxes it actually turns out to be the same price as comparable combustion-engined 4x4s. With the much reduced energy costs and maintenance requirements, you’re left with a car that is likely to turn out cheaper than a conventional 4×4 from a whole-life-cost point of view.
Two E-Ranges are currently on trial as part of One North East’s electric vehicle programme. We’re told that the drivers are enjoying their electric Range Rovers, and we can understand why.
So how much does this car cost? £160,000. Is that a lot of money? Yes. But this isn’t a Ford Focus; Liberty has a specific niche market in its sights, including senior company directors who are currently paying many thousands of pounds in Benefit-in-Kind tax on their petrol-powered executive cars, who could trade them in for an electric Range Rover and instead pay zero Benefit-in-Kind tax. But more than anything, this car is a statement for people who want to portray a certain image with their car – it’s an iconic vehicle that has zero-tailpipe emissions, and that still offers the potential of impressive performance and four-wheel drive capability.
We first came across Liberty’s founder and CEO Barry Shrier on the green car conference circuit a couple of years ago. Some observers thought the concept of a £100,000-plus electric Range Rover was completely mad. However Liberty is still around today and it seems to be doing well.
Green-Car-Guide has always advocated improved efficiency in all classes of cars, and with the pure electric 4×4 E-Range, Liberty has just added a new class of electric vehicle. Good luck to them.