Three Range Rover Diesel Hybrid prototypes have traversed 13 countries over 53 days from Solihull to Mumbai. It is the world’s first ever hybrid expedition along the Silk Trail.
Hostile conditions on the route included asphalt roads with vast potholes, dusty desert trails in 43°C heat and numerous miles of mud and gravel tracks and cattle trails. In addition, river crossings, mountain passes partly blocked by rock falls, erratic traffic of Chinese and Indian roads.
The Silk Trail 2013 expedition was the final validation test for the Range Rover Hybrid before it is signed-off for production. From Solihull, it travelled through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China (including Tibet), Nepal and India. For much of this distance the expedition followed the Silk Road trading routes that first connected Asia with Europe more than 2500 years ago.
Where the north and south Silk Roads split, near the remote city of Kashgar in north-western China, the expedition pioneered a mountainous route never previously completed by a vehicle from outside the country and never previously seen in its entirety by any westerner – the Xinjiang-Tibet highway, which put the new Range Rover Hybrid through its paces at heights of over 5300m above sea level.
Negotiating tracks so sticky with mud that they were impassable to other types of vehicle, the Range Rover’s hybrid engine combination – with a 35kW electric motor supporting the TDV6 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine – returned 36-37mpg.
Land Rover development engineers closely monitored data loggers fitted to each car, sending back more than 300 gigabytes of detailed technical records to their engineering team at Gaydon. The purpose of the expedition was not to test the reliability of mechanical components, which are already proven, but to fine-tune the calibration of engine and transmission software to ensure perfectly seamless performance in all terrains and extreme temperatures and altitudes. Technical setbacks reflected the roughness of the road surfaces: 15 punctures among the expedition’s three Range Rover Hybrids and four support vehicles, four wheels damaged by deep potholes, and four windscreens cracked by stones thrown-up on loose surfaces.