Land Rover announced that an all-electric Defender model is on the way, to be built at the same factory in Nitra, Slovakia as the current model. Though the announcement is thin on details, including when said model is coming to showrooms, we do know a bit.
First off, the new electric Defender is not replacing the internal combustion version. The full range of gasoline and diesel (for non-North American markets) motors will remain available, though in many markets with impending electrification mandates, there will be a greater focus on mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid options. JLR isn't planning to go off of internal combustion until 2039; with Jaguar relaunching as an all-EV brand next year, that means that Land Rover's brands will have internal combustion options for the foreseeable future.
The new Defender EV will be built on the Modular Longitudinal Architecture, the same new full-size architecture that underpins the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. (The current Defender is built on the D7x platform, a variant of the platform first introduced for the prior, 2013-2022 Range Rover.) The MLA architecture is designed to support everything from a screaming 600-horsepower twin-turbo V8 to a full EV.
What's unclear is if this new Defender vehicle will be solely an electric option, or if it's actually a "New Defender Series II" that will also replace the combustion versions. Though the new Defender still feels like it just came out, it's already in its fifth model year. The Nitra plant has produced 365,000 vehicles since going online in late 2018, the majority of which have been Defenders. It would not be unreasonable for Defender to enter a second generation in the next few years.
Also unclear is how this impacts, or hints towards, the future of Discovery, which is also now built at the Nitra plant. There is very little clarity about the future of Discovery, with some indications that Land Rover is taking it slow to get it right after misreading the market replacing the cult classic LR4 with the sales flop Discovery 5. Two sets of rumors on Discovery's future are running side by side. One that says it will convert to a smaller vehicle on the Electrified Modular Architecture (EMA), which will also underpin the new Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Velar, and Discovery Sport. The other rumors say it will be built on the larger MLA platform, and offer a full set of powertrains. If Defender is being built on MLA at Nitra, that's a slight hint that Discovery may be as well -- but there's nothing to say that that means that much, either.
Either way, a full EV is another pathway to success for Defender. Though the EV market is softening overall, there is still strength in "status EVs," which a Defender would certainly be. There's currently very little in the way of serious off-road full-EV SUVs, with the only real competition right now coming from Rivian's R1S.
Get the ROVERLOG Newsletter Delivered to your inbox
Sign up and receive once every 2 weeks