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First drive: 2005 Land Rover Defender with BEDEO EV conversion. Image by BEDEO.

First drive: 2005 Land Rover Defender with BEDEO EV conversion
What difference does the addition of an off-the-shelf, in-wheel electric motor conversion make to the venerable Defender, and is it a better electric solution than others?


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2005 Land Rover Defender with BEDEO EV conversion

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It's clear there's a market for electric conversions of classic cars, but there's competition, too, with a vast number of companies offering such modifications. The latest is BEDEO, which is putting in-wheel motor tech in the Land Rover Defender, and plans to install it in other classics in future. But how different is the system, and will it be the conversion method of choice for budding converters?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2005 Land Rover Defender 110 (2005) with BEDEO in-wheel motors
Price: £POA
Motors: Four 90kW in-wheel motors
Battery: 75kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power: 122hp
Torque: 1,250Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 150 miles (approximately)
0-62mph: 10 seconds
Top speed: 81mph
Boot space: Dependent on specification


Because BEDEO is simply a powertrain company, there's absolutely nothing new or different about the exterior of our test mule, save for the obvious writing down the sides. This tired, well-used, near-20-year-old Defender has done more than 130,000, and it bears some of the scars. The rot in the scuttle, the dents and scrapes, they all tell a story of this car's past life. As do the outsized alloy wheels, behind which lurk what look like oversized drum brakes. But they're the in-wheel motors, peeking through the spokes and taking up little more room than a conventional wheel hub.

Of course, those who choose an electric conversion probably won't apply it to such a rough-and-ready Defender. Or at least, it won't be so rough and ready once the conversion is done. As BEDEO doesn't sell to customers, it's expected that the majority of conversions will be carried out during an ongoing restoration process, which could involve whatever changes a customer has specified. However, some of these off-the-shelf conversion kits may find their way into working commercial vehicles, such as those found at safari parks and other attractions. They may not be quite as treasured.


While BEDEO’s conversion kit may not have any impact on the exterior of the car, it has to have some impact on the cabin. Not in terms of upholstery or seating, or even ergonomics – they’re all still as terrible as ever – but in terms of switchgear and displays. The manual gearboxes have gone, which means there’s no more stirring gravel, but BEDEO’s kit includes a bank of switches to select forward and reverse, as well as a battery meter and a rear-view mirror that displays some vital information.

Other than that, though, conversions will be as their owner desires, whether that’s completely original or trimmed with leather from some little-known relative of the alpaca. Or whatever it is Defender customisers like to do to their cars.

If you’re new to the Defender experience, though, remember these were built as working vehicles, and unless you put quite a lot of work into modifying them, they will remain as such. There’s nowhere for your right elbow or your left leg, the handbrake is down where the clutch pedal would normally be, and the driver’s door catch is inaccessible. Oh, and unless you take rustproofing very seriously, the metal moth will attack.


Because the in-wheel motors are quite compact, and they incorporate the brakes, they don't take up any room in the car's body. That leaves space for batteries and control electronics in the engine bay, and because there's no need for transmission systems to send the power to the wheels (after all, it's already right there), there's no difference to the vehicle's ride height. And even with a 75kWh battery slotted between the chassis rails and under the floor, there's no difference in weight, either. But most importantly, there's no difference to the cabin, which is every bit as spacious as before. At present, the conversion is applied to a five-door 110, but it could theoretically be added to a three-door 90, a Defender pick-up or a longer-wheelbase 130. The long and short of it is, the in-wheel motor powertrain makes no difference to how practical your Defender will be.


Essentially, the in-wheel motors can be tuned to whatever power output you like, but the BEDEO team decided not to get too greedy with the Defender because the chassis simply can't deal with huge amounts of power. So instead, each wheel gets a 90kW in-wheel motor providing 122hp, but there's a massive 1,250Nm of torque available. That's perfect for off-roading, which is how the Defender is naturally geared up, but the outputs can be tuned as required.

BEDEO also supplies the kit with a 75kWh battery, which lives under the floor and provides around 150 miles of range, according to the official figures. In the real world, that's probably a bit optimistic, especially given the aerodynamic properties of the vehicle, but it is surprisingly efficient off-road, where electric motors tend not to guzzle too much juice. And given most customers won't want to do much more than 100 miles at a time in an old Defender, it's probably about the right amount of range.

When the battery does run dry, customers have a choice of charging on a 'wallbox' home charging point, which will fill the battery completely overnight, or charging at speeds of up to 50kW on a DC public charging point. That should get the battery filled from 10 to 80 per cent in less than 90 minutes at maximum charge speed.

Ride & Handling

Because the BEDEO kit weighs much the same amount as the standard Defender’s running gear, the kit doesn’t come with any components to modify the suspension. So in many ways, the Defender feels much the same as ever, with large amounts of body roll and quite vague steering, not to mention a lumbering ride over bumps. It’s hardly the last word in refinement.

But again, the lack of engine noise is welcome, as is the ease of use provided by the two-pedal layout, and the departure of the old gear levers. As a result, the BEDEO kit makes the Defender easier and smoother on the road or off it, and the in-wheel motors have other benefits, too. Chief among which is the instantaneous delivery of the torque – all 1,250Nm of it. With no driveline gubbins, the power is at the wheels immediately, with no lag, no heft and no noise. And that means you can modulate the power smoothly, which is great news when you’re trying to off-road with a little delicacy.


Because BEDEO is keeping its price cards close to its chest, we don't actually know how much the conversion kit will cost. Primarily because customers won't deal with BEDEO, which only supplies garages with the system, because it doesn't want buyers knowing how much profit their specialist is making. Suffice to say, the tech won't be cheap, but exactly how expensive it will be will be down to the supplier you use as much as BEDEO's head office.


The BEDEO conversion works really well on- and particularly off-road, so for those looking to convert a Defender it’s well worth considering. The lack of impact on interior space is appealing, too. But with a lack of price transparency and relatively little to differentiate it from other conversions most of the time, it isn’t easy to place it ahead of any rivals – at least not by much. That said, the tech is clever, and the prospect of using it on a variety of classics in future is exciting. It’s a space we’ll be keeping our eye on.

James Fossdyke - 22 May 2024    - Land Rover road tests
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