With a new electric car of some description launched, it seems, most days, it can feel like there aren’t many gaps in the market left to plug. But Munro Vehicles, a new Scottish startup, believes it’s onto something - creating a properly capable electric 4x4 ahead of the likes of Land Rover, Jeep and Ineos. There may be dozen of electric SUVs out there, but you’ve never seen an electric off-roader quite like this one.
The Munro Mk_1 is the brainchild of Russell Peterson and Ross Anderson, the company founded in 2019 after a camping trip in the Highlands. The story goes that the combustion-engined 4x4 Peterson and Anderson were driving had struggled with the steep inclines of their journey, and a suspicion that electric power would have coped better. Seeing unused chargers at a café stop - as well as loads of old adventure 4x4s with engines - convinced them that an electric off-roader was the way to go. Peterson said: “It dawned on us that there was a gap in the market for an electric-powered, four-wheel-drive, utilitarian workhorse. 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 pick-up trucks that have come to dominate the market.”
Three years later, the Mk_1 is that car. It’s powered by an axial flux electric motor - lighter, more compact and more efficient than a radial flux, says Munro - and will be offered with two outputs: 220kW (299hp) or 280kW (381hp). The battery pack is made up of 35 Lithium NMC modules housed underneath the Mk1 (meaning they can be easily replaced if needed) and is guaranteed to deliver 80 per cent of its original energy capacity after eight years or 100,000 miles. Which is a lot of off-roading. 61kWh or 82kWh packs will be offered, with an ‘optimum range’ of up to 190 miles. That doesn’t sound much in the world of more road-biased electric cars, but clearly the Mk1 isn’t one of those. More relevantly, Munro says the battery life is sufficient for 16 hours off-road use on a charge. The most powerful version can reach 62mph in 4.9 seconds, before topping out at 80mph.
As for charging, the Mk1 will be offered with both 7kW and 22kW DC options, familiar from other EVs for domestic charging - the latter will give a full charge in three and a half hours. Munro says a CCS charge will do the job in little more than 30 minutes, although it doesn’t specify how many kWs the car can accept. But given where it’s likely going to be operating, there’s not going to be a Gridserve around the corner - rapid charging probably won’t be much of a concern.
With the project aiming to deliver the most capable electric 4x4 available, a lot of big decisions had to be made in the Mk1’s development. Unlike a lot of EVs, for example, this Munro doesn’t use a ‘skateboard’ electric architecture with a motor for each axle. Instead, the single motor is centrally mounted (good for weight distribution) that then powers a ‘robust, proven and easily maintained mechanical four-wheel-drive system’. So there’s a locking centre diff as standard (with front and rear equivalents optional), plus a load of parts built for the Mk_1 by UK 4x4 competition companies, bits like the coilover suspension, steering bar and radius arms. The steel ladder chassis and axles are Munro’s own, all designed with toughness and ease of repairability in mind. The panels are also by Munro, in aluminium, with a choice of mounts for how the body goes on the frame depending on how much of a priority NVH is. The option for solid aluminium spacers for rigidity and strength to carry heavy stuff (1,000kg max payload, and it’ll tow up to 3,500kg) shows how serious the Mk_1 aims to be as a workhorse.
The off-road stats certainly look competitive: it’ll wade through up to 800mm of water (even a Defender is only 900mm), ground clearance is 480mm, the ramp breakover angle is 148 degrees and the approach and departure angles are 84 and 51 degrees respectively. So it’ll almost drive up a wall. It’s said that the Mk_1 deals ‘effortlessly’ with boulders, craters, steep hills and heavily rutted terrain. Peterson again: “The engineering is unashamedly agricultural in nature. Some people see the term agricultural as potentially derogatory, but at Munro, we certainly don’t… “Agricultural vehicles feature some of the most sophisticated technology you can imagine. But above all, they are engineered to do the job, no matter how much punishment they soak up, and to keep doing it year after year. The Munro has been built to the most robust standards possible and to be fully operational in 30, 40, 50 years’ time.”
People will probably still be looking in 30, 40, 50 years’ time, too. When so many electric SUVs seek to emulate the one that preceded it, there’ll be no mistaking the Mk_1. ‘Form follows function’ is the design idiom, with Munro adamant that ‘if a vehicle does the job, then it will look the part’. Obviously it’s got to have really short overhangs for venturing off the beaten track, and those quad LED will keep the darkest paths illuminated. There’s no doubting its intent, either. But anyone familiar with SUVs that look as good at the farm shop as they do the farm might be in for a shock. “We are totally comfortable with the minimalist nature of the Munro’s design. Ninety nine per cent of what you can see on this truck is there because it serves a function – and nine times of ten it serves more than one function as well”, said Ross Compton, Head of Design.
Finally, all this perhaps seems immaterial when considering the most important aspect of the Munro Mk_1: it’s going to be a car volume produced in Scotland for the first time since Peugeot-Talbot closed the Linwood plant in 1981. Based in East Kilbride for the moment, Munro aims to move in 2024 to a purpose-built factory in central Scotland, which will enable production to climb from 250 units or so initially to 2,500 per year.
A lot to get your head around, right? It’s not every day that a new car company emerges, let alone one that also seems to be forging its own niche in electric vehicles. Those who want a Munro Mk_1 will be asked to part with at least £49,995 plus VAT - prices for the bigger battery and the optional diffs haven’t yet been announced. Orders for the Founders’ Edition have already come in from territories as far afield as St Lucia, Switzerland and Dubai; perhaps even more importantly, Munro says there are pre-sale agreements in place with fleet operators. This maybe isn’t the EV 4x4 to take to the farmer’s market, but that’s fine. Instead, the Mk_1 has been designed ‘for those seeking to minimise their environmental footprint in numerous sectors including construction, agriculture, mining, environmental, emergency rescue, remote infrastructure maintenance, and recreation without compromising on performance or capability.’ Which makes some sense, though buying into a few Mk_1s clearly won’t come cheap. Production is set to begin in 2023 - it’s going to be an unmissable first sight on the road…
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