Testing of the world's first hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender will begin later this year.
Jaguar Land Rover is undergoing a major transformation with an ambitious plan to become an electric-only brand by 2025. While Jaguar already sells the electric I-Pace crossover, the first all-electric Land Rover will arrive in 2024.
As part of its long-term goal of achieving zero tailpipe emissions by 2036 and net-zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, operations, and projects by 2039, Land Rover is investing heavily in hydrogen fuel-cell technology. To test this tech, Land Rover is developing a hydrogen fuel cell prototype SUV based on the new Defender, which will begin testing later this year. It's not clear if the hydrogen-powered Defender will enter production, but Jaguar Land Rover says hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles will be "complementary to battery electric vehicles" in its future electrified lineup.
Dubbed "Project Zeus", the hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender is being partially funded by the UK government-backed Advanced Propulsion Center. To research, develop, and create the prototype, Jaguar Land Rover has teamed up with partners including Delta Motorsport, AVL, Marelli Automotive Systems and the UK Battery Industrialization Center.
The prototype will allow engineers to optimize hydrogen powertrains to "deliver the performance and capability expected by its customers." During testing, Land Rover will assess the prototype's off-road capability and fuel consumption. "We know hydrogen has a role to play in the future powertrain mix across the whole transport industry, and alongside battery electric vehicles, it offers another zero tailpipe emission solution for the specific capabilities and requirements of Jaguar Land Rover's world-class line-up of vehicles," said Ralph Clague, Head of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells at Jaguar Land Rover.
"The work done alongside our partners in Project Zeus will help us on our journey to become a net-zero carbon business by 2039, as we prepare for the next generation of zero tailpipe emissions vehicles."
While the rollout of hydrogen-powered cars has been slow (the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, and Hyundai Nexo are the only hydrogen-powered cars on sale right now) the number of fuel-cell vehicles on the road has nearly doubled since 2018, and hydrogen refueling stations have increased by over 20 percent. By 2030, the number of fuel-cell vehicles on the road is expected to reach 10 million with 10,000 refueling stations worldwide.