GAYDON, England -- Jaguar Land Rover believes battery power might not be the right solution for its largest SUVs as the automaker moves toward its ultimate goal of reducing emissions from its vehicles to zero.
The SUV body style is problematic because it needs more energy to overcome wind resistance, requiring a bigger battery pack.
"The larger the vehicle the larger the aero challenge. If you're not careful you end up with such big batteries and you make the vehicles so heavy that as you race down the autobahn the range disappears," Nick Rogers, JLR head of engineering, told journalists at an event held the company's recently overhauled engineering and design center in Gaydon, central UK.
Land Rover is currently adding plug-in hybrid models to its range, including the new Defender, but has so far not announced a pure BEV model.
Jaguar was the first mainstream premium brand to offer an electric vehicle when it launched the I-Pace SUV, which sits lower than Land Rover's SUVs, helping its range.
Making Land Rover's largest SUVs zero emission will "potentially bring other technologies into play," Rogers said, citing hydrogen fuel cells as "something to look at."
JLR appointed a new head of hydrogen and fuels cells in March this year, but so far has not announced any research initiative using the technology. The appointee, Ralph Clague, was previously director of fuel cell r&d at China's Great Wall Motor.
In 2016 JLR's former technical director, Wolfgang Ziebart, dismissed fuel-cell powered cars as "complete nonsense," mainly because their wheel-to-well emissions were a "disaster."
Rogers described hydrogen as a "fantastic" solution because its rapid fill-ups, but said it remained problematic in terms of emissions.
"It only makes sense if you're creating the hydrogen with renewable energy," he said. A common way to make the fuel uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
JLR could benefit from its partnership with BMW after agreeing in June to work with its German rival on electric drive units.
BMW is currently collaborating with Toyota on fuel cells and will launch a test fleet of fuel cell versions of the X5 and X7 SUVs in 2021.
However, BMW said it backs batteries over fuel cells for creating zero-emission cars.
"The development we expect for battery density would make BEVs the most-efficient solution," Klaus Froehlich, BMW Group board member for development, said on the sidelines of the company's NextGen event in June.
Froelich said a fuel cell powertrain is 10 times more expensive than a full-electric one. The prices will not be comparable until about 2025, he said.