With 305bhp, 41 miles of electric range and serious off-road ability intact, this is how you do a hybrid 4x4
Themes of the year? Apart from the obvious, 2020 will go down as the year of the plug-in hybrid. A compromise in every sense, it’s nevertheless a useful solution as nascent charging networks blossom in slow motion.
Having previously offered plug-in hybrid derivatives of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, Land Rover has now properly electrified its more affordable cars, the Evoque and the family-friendly Discovery Sport. And it’s done so with a new approach. Where the Range Rover mounted its 85kW e-motor inside its transmission, meaning both power sources drove both axles (via the low-range transmission if necessary), the new cars use a different philosophy. Each power unit – the engine and the e-motor – drives an axle each, the propshaft’s departure freeing up space in which to package the hybrid systems. But there’s always four-wheel drive, with the hybrid system maintaining a minimum state of charge and actively diverting power to the battery should you engage an off-road mode.
‘The temptation with any project is to just hit each target by the skin of your teeth,’ explains vehicle engineering manager Chris Carey. ‘But with these PHEVs we wanted it all: excellent electric-only range, real-world benefits and proper off-road performance. Off-road, the target was to match the ability of the non-PHEV cars. We’ve surpassed that, thanks in part to the instant response and torque of the e-motor. Achieving this has required some new technologies; a new gearbox supplier, the new triple and the GKN rear-axle electric motor/generator.’
The 1500cc, three-cylinder version of JLR’s Ingenium in-line engine is more compact than the four (the space it frees up is used to package the PHEV’s many cooling circuits), lighter and more efficient (fewer moving parts mean less friction). At the same time many parts are common to the four- and the six-cylinder engines (as found in the F-Type and Defender), and the engine’s assembled on the same production lines.
Further back, under the car, losing the propshaft and moving the exhaust system to one side has created space for the plug-in hybrids’ other systems: the power converter and charger under the front seats, the battery and fuel tank under the rear seats and the e-motor/generator on the rear axle.
Clever stuff, but it won’t come cheap: the Evoque P300e starts at £43,850; the plug-in Disco Sport at £45,370. But the engineering is compelling, with an electric-only range of 41 miles in the Evoque [38 miles in the Disco Sport], off-road performance worthy of the badge, and a combined 305bhp – the Evoque P300 will rattle out 0-62mph in 6.6sec.
Each power unit drives an axle each, bringing massive packaging advantages.
INSIDE JLR’S NEAT PLUG- IN POWERTRAIN
THREE: THE MAGIC NUMBER
We’ve previously seen JLR’s turbo petrol Ingenium engine as a six and a four. The triple creates additional space under the bonnet (for cooling circuits) while also reducing friction and weight (by 37kg versus the four).
The 15kWh lithium-ion battery is mounted beneath the rear seats, together with a slightly smaller fuel tank. The two don’t compromise ground clearance and are protected by a 6mm steel undertray. Deleting the propshaft has helped create space under the front seats for the onboard charger and power converter.
REAR MOTOR UNIT
The fruit of a new relationship with GKN, the electric motor powers the rear axle alone. The 108bhp permanent-magnet motor is housed, together with its inverter and single-speed reduction gearset, in a tough little casing that doesn’t compromise the multilink rear suspension. Motor potent enough to run the cars beyond 80mph without the engine’s help.