Like it or not, electric vehicles are the way of the future and that includes 4X4s. Here’s our wrap up of what’s either available right now or will be very soon.
Here’s a roundup of what electrified 4X4s are on the market now, or are due to be released. We’ve restricted the list to those with serious off-road capability or some towing capacity. There’s two types – conversions, which are petrol/diesel vehicles modified to run electric, and ground-up electric vehicles which have been designed from the start to be pure electric. The ground-up designs are currently only available from specialist startups, not yet any established carmaker, but we expect that to change. The conversions are aimed at commercial use on large private grounds, not yet the consumer recreational market, but again that may change too.
We’ll keep this list updated as the market evolves, and please note that a lot of the claims and specifications below are subject to change, but first, some definitions:
What are the different terms for ‘electric’ 4X4s?
ICE – internal combustion engine, either petrol or diesel. You probably own at least one. Takes the name from the fact the combustion is done internally, as opposed to externally like a steam engine.
EV – electric vehicle, also known as a BEV or Battery Electric Vehicle. Powered purely by electricity, no other means of propulsion. Examples are Teslas, and most of what’s below.
Hybrid – combination of ICE and EV, but the battery cannot be changed except by regeneration from the engine. Also known as an HEV, or Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Examples are most Priuses, hybrid Camry, and the new Forester. At this stage, vehicles typically come with an option for a hybrid powerplant, but expect that to change to hybrid-only.
PHEV – Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Same as a hybrid, but you can charge the battery separately to regeneration, usually has 40-70km battery range. Examples are Mitsubishi Outlander and Range Rover Sport.
Electrified – means one of hybrid, PHEV or EV – manufacturers use to to describe their range being ‘electrified’ which is not the same as all-EV.
What are the 4X4 EVs available now or in the future?
Rivian R1-T and R1-S
Availability – 2021
Rivian are promising two off-road-focused EVs, the R1T ute and R1S wagon, both based on the same platform. The R1-T is 55000mm long so about the same length as a Ranger, but unlike a Ranger, you open the bonnet and find yourself extra storage space. Specifications include a 5000kg tow rating, air suspension. 640km range, 370mm ground clearance, 900mm wading and 0-100km/h in three seconds. The most interesting feature is what we’ll call IWD, or Individual Wheel Drive – one motor at each wheel, which, mark my words, will make it the most capable off-roader ever, provided it’s calibrated right. The vehicles will also have Level 3 driving autonomy, so closer to self driving than just about anything else. Rivian look like one of the more serious EV specialists, with major backing from both Ford and Amazon, and working prototypes in development. Expect them in Australia in 2021 or 2022.
Bollinger are working on the B1 wagon and B2 ute, which is relatively small at only 4.3m long, about 100mm longer than a shortie Wrangler JL, but it seats only four. Specifications for the wagon include 380mm of ground clearance, 320km range, swaybar disconnects, portal axles, air suspension, 3400kg towing, a tare weight of 2270kg and GVM of 4530kg so an impressive payload of around 2267kg, all running on 285/70/17 tyres, same size as Ranger Raptor. There’s no individual wheel drive, instead there’s two motors with front and rear cross-axle locking differentials and even high/low range. Like the Rivian, the bonnet opens to reveal a “frunk” storage area. The price in the USA is $125,000USD, and a right-hand drive version is definitely planned.
The Cybertruck has hugely impressive hype and specifications – 800km range, 6300kg towing, nearly 2m tray, 400mm plus of ground clearance with air suspension and it comes in rear-drive, all-drive with two motors, and all-drive with three motors. The 0-100km/h time is 2.9 seconds, for the Trimotor. the When and if Tesla deliver on these specifications is yet to be seen, and the Cybertruck looks a lot more like a concept than the likes of the Rivian. Tesla claim it has an “exoskeleton” which is “nearly impenetrable” and there’s “ultra strong glass and polymer-layered composite” to “absorb impact force for improved performance and damage tolerance”. Quite why this is important in a 4X4 is beyond me – perhaps it’s playing to the survivalist mindset? Who knows, we’ll find out if it makes it to market, but you can pre-order one now, fully refundable in case you change your mind.
The X is a five-metre long, all-wheel-drive SUV that can seat 7 with gull-wing doors (sorry, “falcon wing doors”) at the back. It has no off-road capability but it is included here as it is the closest thing to a mass-production EV 4X4 on the market, and it can tow…sort of. Braked tow is 2250kg, but the towball mass is only 90kg and our tow test indicated that its claimed range of 580km is severely curtailed even with a trailer as light as 1000kg on the back. Like all Teslas, it has a lot of automated driving aids such as market-leading adaptive cruise control Autopilot and self-parking. Teslas currently are the quickest charging EVs on the market, with a claimed 205km in 15m, but you don’t want to do that too often if you value your battery, even if it is warranted to 8 years and 240,000km, whichever comes first.
Voltra are converting 70 Series LandCruisers for around $200,000, focused on commercial applications such as mining and farming where range requirements are short, charge points are plentiful, and there are good reasons to avoid diesel emissions – up to 40% of the cost of a new mine can be spent on dealing with heat, gases and particulate matter. The transmission is single-speed, but the high/low range is retained as is the part-time 4WD system. All electrical components are sealed to IP67 (water depth 1m), but no wading depth is given. Recharge time is said to take 40minutes from a state of 20% charge.
Zero are also converting 70 Series Landcruisers for commercial users, naming theirs the ZED70. Range is claimed to be 350km from an 88kWh battery with a life of 10 years, and it weighs around 200kg more than a stock 70. The ZED70s are also ready for autonomous vehicle technology with GPS-driven location tech, and potential for remote control such as safety overrides.
And here’s another convertor of 70 Series to electric! GB Auto’s Electric Cruiser has a range of up to 160km, a maximum speed of 80km/h, and can be recharged from 20 to 80% om 2.5 hours on a standard 10A socket, or 1 hour on a 3-three system. The battery is lifed to 8000 cycles assuming a discharge to 20% – this is something to remember about EVs, for best battery life you need to charge to around 80%, discharge to 20% and avoid fast-charging. The vehicles have no gearbox, and the battery pack can go in the original fuel tank location, inside the chassis, or under the bonnet – or in all three locations for maximum range. The dashboard has been replaced with an entirely digital version. Tembo also offer an electric Hilux using the same technology as the 70. Pictured is a Game Viewer, ideal for environmentally friendly wildlife viewing, and quiet so it doesn’t disturb them.
Jaunt are ‘up-cycling’ old vehicles, starting with this 1971 Land Rover Series 2a, and converting them to EVs for rent or purchase. There will be power steering, heating, auto-cancelling indicators and more…but it’ll still be a Series.
The XT Pickup Truck will have individual wheel drive, independent suspension, four-wheel steering, be totally drive-by-wire, top speed of 193km/h, range of 800km, ground clearance of 380mm, 7700kg towing, 2267kg payload, has the usual front-storage frunk, and there’s a claimed life of 1.6 million kilometres. Prices start at USD$45,000, but it’s not known if they’ll make it to Australia. Atlis are allowing others to use their platform so different bodies can be built – we’d like to see a forward-control small truck! There’s some amazing claims for charging, with Atlis saying its vehicles “will be capable of a 15-minute charge today and a 5-minute charge tomorrow”. Big claims indeed, but they are developing their own battery technology so it’ll be interesting to see when those claims are met.
An Australian company planning to develop a 4X4 with a diesel ranger extender “expected after 2020″. Their vehicle is planned as a V2H, which means it docks to your home, transferring power. They say ” Our vehicles will fill a niche not currently addressed by others – our first model is a practical, off-road capable 4×4 pick-up. It is not compromised by short range and limited recharging options. Its ability to co-generate power to a home, and to generate revenue by exporting power to the grid makes it a winning proposition for our customers.”
Most PHEVs are soft-roaders or roadcars, such as the Outlander PHEV. Land Rover offer a Range Rover and Range Rover Sport PHEV. We’ve tested it, and it’s a very good car but limited in towing and storage capacity compared to the ICE equivalent. Electric-only range is about 40km, but we drove it from Melbourne’s west to the CBD without needing the petrol engine, charged it, and drove it back. We also drove it off-road in electric-only mode, towing the 1000kg trailer you see below, and it’s as effective an off-roader in electric mode as it is diesel, if not more so.
What other 4X4 EVs are planned?
Every 4X4 maker is planning electrified vehicles as the laws of the world change to make it impossible to keep producing ICE vehicles. Jeep have announced the Wrangler hybrid, Land Rover the same for Defender, the Toyota LC300 will be electrified and much more. We speculate that just about all new models from 2021 will be either hybrid or PHEV, and that EV 4X4s will start to appear from 2021 but as more conversions and from specialists such as Rivians. Perhaps the first mainstream off-road EV will be 2025? Who knows, but it’s a matter of when, not if.
Can you build your own 4X4 EV?
Yes, that’s becoming increasingly popular. Here’s a home conversion of a Series I Land Rover we had the pleasure of driving:
There’s even now convert-it-yourself kits for EVs available on the market already from the likes of Oz DIY Vehicles (https://www.ozdiyelectricvehicles.com/) which offers a kit for $8950, using batteries that might give you up to 150km of range with the option to add more batteries for more range. Their products are suitable for anything from a Yaris to a 70 Series.
Should you consider an EV 4X4?
The first EV 4X4s will match or exceed ICE vehicles for on-road and off-road capability, but have far less range as our testing shows that the claimed range of an EV is far greater than the reality, particularly once you start using the heater or load it up with gear. The first EV offroaders will be ideal for short-range trips, for example day trips, farm use, or local commercial. The range won’t be as bad as you may think in those situations, as difficult offroading is a lot of very slow-speed work, and that’s where EVs have a energy efficiency advantage over ICE vehicles. Think about your last hard day trip – how much time did you spend stopped on the track, or just crawling? That’s the EV efficiency zone right there, more so than cruising at 110km/h.
We can also look forwards to lower running costs – the battery is the main expense, and as an example, Tesla’s current technology is warranted to a minimum of 70% battery capacity after 8 years for 241,000km, whichever come first. Reliability should be better than ICE too, as almost all of the complexity of a modern vehicle is centred around its ICE powerplant. Nevertheless, it will be some time before the combination of range, speed of charging, and network of charge points means that EVs can replace ICE 4X4s for long-range touring or heavy towing. But whatever happens, you can read about it here first!