Fashionably late to the hybrid party
Traditionally, concept cars are more show than go – those 24-inch carbon-fiber wheels, the transparent gauge cluster, and the rear wraparound couch sans seatbelts placed atop a tropical wood floor – it all looks good on a rotating stand under dazzling lights, but it’ll never see the lights of a production line. And, to some degree, that’s the case with Land Rover’s Land_e concept. One glance at this contraption, with its lack of seats or even doors, and even the most automotive-ignorant among us can see that something is amiss here. However, this creation is all about future technology rather than hinting at any one specific model. Several systems are highlighted by the Land_e concept, one being the Integrated Starter-Generator system (ISG), which replaces the alternator and allows the vehicle to temporarily shut down at idle, much like the current Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid. Unlike those models, however, the Land_e would use a six-cylinder hybrid powertrain capable of operating on bio-ethanol. There’s also Integrated Electric Rear Axle Drive, a setup that Land Rover insists is superior to those on current four-wheel-drive hybrids because it uses electrical and mechanical power rather than electric alone. Like many hybrid models already on the market, the Land_e could travel up to 20 mph just on electric power. Regenerative braking is used to recharge a lithium-ion battery pack. Land Rover uses the term Seamless Re-connect to describe what is essentially an all-wheel-drive system, where the front wheels are constantly engaged and the rear wheels are immediately put into action when there’s a loss of grip. Speaking of traction, a new mode has been added to Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, though it’s designed primarily for on-road use. Called e-mode, this allows shift points to come earlier and throttle response to be less aggressive, all in an effort to improve fuel efficiency. Those shifts can be controlled by a two-pedal Power-shift transmission, which can be used in automatic or manual mode and is designed to increase fuel economy through seamless, instantaneous gear changes. Land Rover claims that many of these technologies, in addition to other systems that can be based on electric rather than mechanical power, can cut midsize or large SUV fuel consumption by one-third, and should be available on production models in the coming years. In simple terms, the Land_e concept is Land Rover’s way of saying it’s time to focus on improved fuel economy and build a hybrid.
Photos by Land Rover and Ron Perry