The latest-generation Land Rover Defender is going to serve as the testbed for Jaguar Land Rover’s fuel-cell powertrain technology, with the manufacturer expected to start testing a hydrogen-powered Defender prototype later this year. JLR’s Project Zeus programme, which is aimed at studying the feasibility of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative source of power, forms part of its plan to achieve zero tailpipe emissions by 2026. It is a core part of the Reimagine strategy unveiled by CEO Thierry Bolloré earlier this year.
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) will be “complementary to battery-electric vehicles” in JLR’s new-era vehicle lineup. Key benefits for fuel-cell vehicles over their battery-electric counterparts, as outlined by Jaguar Land Rover, are rapid refueling and optimal range even in low temperatures. Project Zeus will adapt a Land Rover Defender to accommodate the fuel-cell powertrain to test the aforementioned attributes in a real-world setting.
It will also test other characteristics, such as off-road ability. Project Zeus is part-funded by UK government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre and is being run in a partnership with other engineering firms like AVL, Marelli Automotive Systems, and Delta Motorsport.
With testing of the hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender only to start later this year, the technology is still a few years away from being launched in the market. India is lagging a fair bit behind other major automotive markets in the adoption of fuel-cell vehicles. Currently, no automaker sells a hydrogen-powered vehicle in the country. Furthermore, until recently, a single unit in Faridabad was the sole supplier of hydrogen for the entire country.
Speaking of the Land Rover Defender, prices of the SUV range from Rs 76.57 lakh - Rs 1.15 crore, ex-showroom. The automaker has recently expanded the Defender lineup, with the SUV now available in our market with three engine options – a 2-litre petrol, a 3-litre petrol, and a 3.0-litre diesel. Land Rover has also started taking bookings for the Defender P400e, a plug-in hybrid that is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor.