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An electric powertrain is all wrong for off-road vehicles

Two of the world’s toughest, most rugged all-terrain vehicles, the Jeep Wrangler and the next Land Rover Defender, are slated to get electrified powertrains.

Big mistake.

If there is one type of vehicle that could be excused from the mad rush to install an electric motor and battery pack, it’s the real off-road vehicle whose drivers actually use them as intended.

At the L.A. Auto Show last week, Jeep CEO Mike Manley confirmed a plug-in hybrid version of the redesigned Wrangler will be available in two years.

This year, Jaguar Land Rover said all its vehicles launched from 2020 will be available with an electrified drivetrain.

The problem with gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles is that much of the time, such as cruising at highway speeds, the gasoline engine is doing most of the work to move the vehicle. It’s dragging around the dead weight from the motor, battery pack and power electronics.

A plug-in powertrain makes little sense for an off-road vehicle, too, because chances are high the electric range will be used up before the vehicle reaches the trail. I can understand the allure of an electric off-road vehicle, though:



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