Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has revealed it is developing a hydrogen-powered version of the Defender in a project part-funded by the government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre.
A prototype of the new zero-emissions powertrain will be assessed this year to optimise fuel consumption, towing and off-road ability.
If it is successful, the vehicle will join a range that also includes the P400e plug-in hybrid, as JLR’s bid to eliminate tailpipe emissions by 2036 gathers momentum.
Performance details are currently unavailable, but the system will feature an on-board, high-pressure tank to store the hydrogen.
This feeds gas to a fuel cell, slotted in the space vacated by the combustion engine, where it is mixed with oxygen to generate energy and water – the only by-product of the process.
Electricity produced by the chemical reaction in the fuel cell powers a motor. This is backed up by a battery that stores energy harvested during braking and provides brief injections of high power when necessary.
JLR expects hydrogen to be an attractive proposition in the long-term, as refuelling is far quicker than battery-powered alternatives, it has a high energy density and doesn’t suffer from diminished driving range in cold weather.
There are currently just two fuel cell electric vehicles on the UK market – the Hyundai Nexo SUV and second-generation Toyota Mirai – but most of the big-name auto makers are beginning to fast-track development.
They include Ineos, which is thought to be working on a hydrogen version of the yet-to-be-launched Grenadier 4×4.
One of the major stumbling blocks for early adopters is fuelling stations, as there is currently only a handful dotted around the country.