Land Rover Defender Fuel Cell Prototype Could Bring Hydrogen to Off-Roading

Nothing like filling up your specialized jerry cans with H2 and hitting the trails.

Kristen Lee/The Drive

Land Rover, along with its sister company Jaguar, wants all of its vehicles to have zero tailpipe emissions by 2036. It's a noble goal and similar to other automakers, JLR is taking a multi-faceted approach to achieving that end. One component of that approach is FCEVs, or hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric vehicles.

On Tuesday, JLR announced that by the end of this year, Land Rover plans to have at least one prototype FCEV driving around: a Defender converted to run on electricity produced by hydrogen. The vehicle will have a fuel cell hooked up to a relatively conventional electric drivetrain to get it down the road, but will otherwise look exactly like any other Defender. It's one of the first steps in the plan that would see the company emissions-free within 15 years.

Land Rover

This new FCEV Defender sits under the umbrella of "Project Zeus," a partially government-funded initiative intended to develop advanced emissions-free drivetrains. The project includes several other partners, including automotive supplier Marelli Automotive Systems, the UK Battery Industrialization Center, engineering consultancy Delta Motorsport, and engineering firm AVL.

Little information has been released about the drivetrain outside of the diagrams embedded below from the press release. JLR insists this new Defender will meet the towing, off-roading, range, and refueling needs of its consumers, though. If that means anything, it implies the FCEV Defender will have similar specifications to the current gasoline-powered models.

It's unclear if or when a hydrogen-assisted Defender will actually land in your driveway, but with JLR's home market planning to ban the sale of combustion-powered vehicles by 2030, a solution has to come sooner rather than later. The single prototype will start testing this year, but it's JLR's goal to get emissions free as quickly as possible. Expect more news on hydrogen-assisted and electrified products from the automaker soon.

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