2011 LIberty E-Range Converted Range Rover SUVEnlarge Photo
If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you’ll know that we’ve said before that making a good electric car is hard, even for large automakers like Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Chevrolet.
As for turning a production gasoline or diesel car into an electric one? It’s a whole different level of tough.
Which is why we went with an open mind to test-drive the E-Range, a prototype fully electric SUV conversion based on a Range Rover.
Made by Liberty E-Cars, a U.K. based firm with grand designs to use its patented electric drivetrain system to convert a U.S. made SUV into an all-electric car, the E-Range is its demonstration platform.
Good on paper
The 2011 Liberty E-Range is based upon Land Rover’s 2011 Range Rover Vogue.
Popular with socialites and wealthy business people worldwide, the stock Range Rover Vogue ships with a 4.4 liter V8 diesel engine, and combines rugged off-road capability with a luxurious interior, gadgets galore of course, a 3 ton towing capability.
2011 LIberty E-Range SUVEnlarge Photo
Unendorsed by Land Rover, Liberty E-Cars conversion is carried out to new Range Rovers which it buys as fully functioning internal combustion vehicles.
Removing the large, gas-guzzling engine and standard drivetrain, Liberty installs an unspecified DC electric motor capable of producing 405ft/lbs of torque on the vehicle chassis at each corner, linking it to the wheel through a reduction gearbox and short drive shaft, giving completely independent four-wheel drive.
Power is supplied by a 75 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located underneath the main body of the car, giving the e-Range a claimed range of 200 miles per charge.
Plagued by problems
When we drive a prototype car we always expect there to be a few issues still requiring attention, such as a steering geometry, unfinished trim or even unfinished telematics
But in the case of the E-Range, our troubles started the minute we sat behind the wheel.
For the first 5 minutes of our test drive, our car went nowhere.
Caused by what LIberty told us was a miscommunication between Land Rover’s original Range Rover electronics and its own conversion electronics, our E-Range didn’t want to go into gear.
Then the car’s steering lock refused to disengage, prohibiting us from pulling out of Liberty’s workshop.
2011 LIberty E-Range SUVEnlarge Photo
How do you select a gear in a car with automatic transmission? It varies from car to car of course, but the general accepted practice is to place one’s foot on the brake pedal while moving the gear selector.
Not so with the E-Range. In order to move the car out of park, you have to keep your foot off the brake pedal, making the E-Range counter-intuitive from the start to anyone who drives an automatic transmission.
Given that very few people drive stick these days, that alienates the majority of Liberty’s potential customers.
To actually get the E-Range to move, we were told to select drive and then place our foot on the brake momentarily. Touching the brake pedal briefly then engages the electronically simulated idle creep function.
Selecting reverse was a similarly convoluted affair, with the E-Range taking a good ten seconds to notice we’d disengaged reverse before switching off the standard Range Rover reversing camera
Slow to pull away
One of the advantages to using electric motors over an internal combustion engine is the huge amount of torque available at low speed. As anyone who has driven a 2011 Tesla Roadster will tell you, that extra torque makes for extremely quick acceleration from standstill.
But during our all-too brief test-drive, the E-range betrayed its all-electric drivetrain and exited junctions at a speed more suited to a neighborhood electric vehicle than a $225,000 SUV.
Once moving however, acceleration was quicker, pushing us up to 55 mph without incident. Sadly, our time with the car was so brief we were unable to test the E-Range’s claimed 0-60mph time of 7 seconds.