One of the three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes which just traveled 16,000km from the English Midlands to Mumbai in 53 days - the production model goes on sale across Europe from January

One of the three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes which just traveled 16,000km from the English Midlands to Mumbai in 53 days - the production model goes on sale across Europe from January

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As head of EV and hybrid vehicle programmes for JLR, Pete Richings is the firm’s lead engineer for the soon to be launched diesel-electric Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. He recently spoke to just-auto’s Glenn Brooks.

GB: Murray Dietsch has said the decision to go with diesel rather than petrol for JLR's first production hybrids is due to emissions standards in Europe. Will a petrol-electric drivetrain come later?

PR: Murray's right. We took a decision two or three years ago that we would go with diesel. We knew it was against the run of what other people were doing but we wanted the best possible fuel economy. So we’re going to get that from a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine combined with hybridisation.

We decided to focus our efforts on the European markets to start with. We had quite a debate about that, as you could imagine, but we don’t regret that at all. In fact it’s quite interesting that one or two of our competitors also now seem to be going down the diesel hybrid route [BMW showed the X5 eDrive concept at the Frankfurt IAA in September]. So we’re pretty happy with our decision and we’re looking forward to seeing how the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport hybrids perform in the market.

GB: Have the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport been designed with the possibility of a future plug-in hybrid drivetrain?

PR: We’ve engineered them specifically as hybrids but you’ll be aware of the Range_e research project which was based on the old Range Rover Sport [revealed at the 2011 Geneva show] and that was a plug-in hybrid. It had a similar powertrain architecture but it required different batteries, different power electronics. So we know how to do plug-in hybrids, we’ve been quite open about the fact that we’re continuing to do research projects, and we’ll be ready when the world’s ready for plug-in hybrids.

GB: Why do you say that?

PR: There’s not enough places to plug them in. If you buy a PHEV and you can’t plug it in regularly, you’re worse off than if you just had a normal vehicle, in that you’re carting around a great big heavy battery. If you can’t get the vehicle charged up, it’s not the most efficient way to run a car.

I’m a real big fan of plug-in hybrids and I’m looking forward to when there are enough places to charge them.

GB: Would it be fair to say that JLR is ready to go with PHEV tech but is waiting for the infrastructure to catch up?

PR: We’re well advanced on our development.

GB: Would Jaguar or Land Rover be the better fit for the company’s first PHEV?

PR: We’re looking at PHEVs but there are no plans to launch one - that’s our position. Any answer I could give you would be for a hypothetical question.

GB: But what would JLR do - the same thing as its rivals? BMW USA wants an extra $3,850 for the i3's 600cc range extender engine and it's a similar price in European markets, and the i8, a PHEV, will also be expensive, won't it?

PR: I’m better at answering technical questions but to answer it this way - in this industry most engineering innovations tend to start off on high-priced models and then they work their way down. That’s a pretty common model and I don’t see it being any different for plug-in hybrids.

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