Munro electric 4x4 looks to take over where the old Land Rover Defender left off

Munro electric 4x4
Munro electric 4x4

The search for a replacement for the revered previous-generation Land Rover Defender workhorse continues; as the world waits for the launch of the Ineos Grenadier in January, another 4x4 utility contender has broken cover, the battery-electric, Scottish-built Munro, which will also be on sale in 2023.

Named after the collective noun for the 282 hills and mountains across Scotland above 3,000ft in height, the £50,000, all-terrain, five-door crew-cab pickup will carry up to one tonne and five adults across all terrains.

The Munro is the first battery electric contender to emerge and is similar in concept to the US-built Bollinger Motors battery pickup in the US.

In fact, the two vehicles share a designer, Ross Compton, who led the styling of the Bollinger project and says the Munro has also been designed with purpose in mind.

“We are totally comfortable with the minimalist nature of the Munro’s design,” he says. “99 per cent of what you can see on this truck is there because it serves a function.”

The old-fashioned body-on-frame design echoes that of the old Land Rover Defender. More up to date is a single electric motor underneath the front seats and a mechanical drivetrain to each wheel, which the company claims makes it simple and robust.

“Our values align with the original concept for the Land Rovers of the Fifties,” says co-founder and chief executive, Russell Peterson, “a sort of Workmate of a vehicle; a reliable workhorse.”

munro electric 4x4
munro electric 4x4

Munro builds its own axles using a mix of aftermarket and motorsport-derived components for the drivetrain, with the steering and suspension developed by a UK-based 4x4 competition specialist. The vehicle will have a locking centre differential, with front and rear locking differentials as options, indicating a high level of off-road ability.

It will offer two axial-flux pancake electric motors, with 220kW or 280kW, and two lithium-battery packs with energy capacities of 61kWh and 82kWh. The larger gives a claimed real-world driving range of up to 180 miles.

Designed with off-road performance to the fore, Munro sales will be targeted at mining, construction, utilities, agriculture and defence.

The idea came to the company founders, Peterson and head of powertrain Ross Anderson, after an off-road camping trip in the Highlands when the combustion-engined vehicle they were in struggled up steeper hills. The two men had some experience with EVs and wondered how much better a battery-powered utility would have managed.

“It dawned on us that there was a gap in the market for an electric-powered four-wheel drive utilitarian workhorse,” says Peterson. “We envisioned a vehicle with ultimate, go anywhere, off-road ability, unrestricted by road-derived underpinnings that limit the all-terrain ability of vehicles such as the 4x4 pickup trucks that have come to dominate the market.”

As with all EVs, the motor’s pulling power is considerable and its 516lb ft being available from rest it should aid off-road driveability as well as giving a top speed of 80mph and 0-62mph acceleration in 4.9sec. Charging times are overnight with the standard 7.4kW systems, 3.5 hours with the optional 22kW onboard charger and 30 minutes on a DC fast charger.

Towing capacity, often an issue with battery vehicles, is up to the legal maximum of 3.5 tonnes. With longevity in mind, the company will guarantee an 80 per cent charge state of the battery for eight years and 100,000 miles, but will also undertake to replace it or individual cells after that.

munro electric 4x4
munro electric 4x4

Peterson and Anderson founded the company in 2019 with a development site at East Kilbride, where they have built a series of prototypes to test the concept. They were initially self-funded but have attracted some venture capital investment from Elbow Beach Capital to continue the project.

The company has received orders for the small number of “Founders Edition” hand-built Munros which will be produced next year. It is currently looking for a series production premises close to Glasgow which would be capable of expanding to accommodate a workforce of 300 building up to 2,500 Munros a year. They are planning the expansion with a combination of funding from a mix of private and public sources.

Crew cab pickups such as the Munro are seen as key to utility markets in which vehicles such as Toyota’s Hilux have dominated in recent decades. Yet Land Rover’s upmarket replacement Defender only comes in closed shooting brake form, while Ineos has yet to officially announce a pickup version of the Grenadier.

There’s clear demand for low- or zero-carbon utility vehicles in the UK and Toyota has recently announced an £11.3 million deal to develop a new range of hydrogen fuel-cell Hilux pickups in the UK.

Public funding for the scheme, which could result in a Hilux FC production line at Toyota’s Deeside plant, consists of £5.6 million from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and a further £5.7 million from the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC), an industry body which supports efforts to decarbonise.