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The top five electric 4x4s we want in Australia

What electric 4x4s are available to buy?

People who enjoy the taste and sensation of dust in their teeth no doubt get a lot of joy out of tearing over wild terrain in their ATV or UTV, but nothing quite beats the combination of convenience, capability and toughness that you get from a full-sized off-road 4x4. 

So far, however, if you want a vehicle like this but are determined to save the planet at the same time by choosing an electric powertrain, your options are somewhat limited, at least in Australia. But that will change.

There are certain four-wheel-drive (4WD) snobs who’d liken driving an electric 4WD to piloting a battery-operated, remote-controlled Traxxas car, but the prejudice is uncalled for: Electric Vehicles (EVs) have the grunt and torque to match any internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicle, and the technology in them is only getting better. 

All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) is similar to 4WD in that power can be used for both the front and rear wheels for maximum traction, but 4WD is the only one of the two options that has serious off-road capabilities - in this article, we’ll be focusing solely on the latter. 

The 4WD electric vehicle in Australia

Currently if you want an electric 4WD in Australia, your options are quite limited. 

First, it’s important to know that currently there are two main contenders when it comes to the 4WD electric car: conversions, which are petrol or diesel vehicles that have been modified to EVs thanks to a conversion kit, and ground-up electric 4WD vehicles that are designed as EVs from the get-go. 

At the moment conversions are only available for commercial use on large private grounds, and not the consumer market. Ground-up 4WD EVs are only for sale from specialist start-ups rather than established car manufacturers at this stage, but this will likely change in the not-too-distant future. 

With the popularity of EVs set to increase drastically over the coming years, it will only be a matter of time before mainstream car brands are mass-producing electric 4WD vehicles. And indeed, one of the most famous in this field, Hummer, is not far off doing so.

Until that time comes, here’s what’s available, globally, and what’s eventually coming to a showroom near you. 

 

GMC Hummer

The Hummer EV has a ‘crab mode’ that allows it to drive diagonally. The Hummer EV has a ‘crab mode’ that allows it to drive diagonally.

GMC are throwing down the gauntlet and giving petrol and diesel-powered V8 4x4s a serious run for their money with a Hummer EV pick-up truck with a driving range of more than 560km from a 200kWh battery and an engine that delivers a whopping 2033Nm of torque. Read that again - two Newton kilometres of torque - it should be able to tow any reasonably sized planet. Excellently, the Hummer EV has a ‘crab mode’ that allows it to drive diagonally, and an off-road 'extract mode' can raise the air suspension approximately 15cm, giving the armoured undercarriage extra clearance. It goes on-sale in the US this year - and an EV SUV will follow in 2023 - but currently no plans have been announced to release either model in Australia. 

 

Voltra

Australian company Voltra will convert your 70 Series LandCruiser utility into a full-electric vehicle. Australian company Voltra will convert your 70 Series LandCruiser utility into a full-electric vehicle.

Australian company Voltra has targeted the mining industry, where, for an even $200,000, they’ll convert your 70 Series LandCruiser utility into a full-electric vehicle. These 4x4 EVs feature a single-speed transmission, but the 4x4 capabilities are retained for when conditions get a little more off-road

 

Mercedes-Benz EQC 4x4²

The full-electric EQC 4x4² is based on the EQC 400 4Matic. The full-electric EQC 4x4² is based on the EQC 400 4Matic.

Based on the EQC 400 4Matic, the full-electric EQC 4x4² is, for the time being at least, a one-off prototype designed to show off Mercedes-Benz’s engineering prowess when it comes to designing a 4WD EV. Built for extreme off-road performance, the EQC 4x4² boasts a twin electric motor drive system powered by an 80kWh lithium-ion battery. 

 

Tesla Cybertruck

The Tesla Cybertruck has serious power and off-road capability. The Tesla Cybertruck has serious power and off-road capability.

It may look like something out of a science fiction film, but the Tesla Cybertruck has serious power and off-road capability: 800km range, 6300kg towing capacity, a tray of nearly two metres and over 400mm ground clearance. It may or may not make it to Australian shores, but expect it to turn some serious heads if it ever does arrive.

 

Rivian R1T and R1S

US American electric car start-up Rivian is stepping up to the plate to take on Tesla with two off-road EVs with 4WD capability. US American electric car start-up Rivian is stepping up to the plate to take on Tesla with two off-road EVs with 4WD capability.

US American electric car start-up Rivian is stepping up to the plate to take on Tesla with two off-road EVs with 4WD capability: the R1T ute and the R1S wagon. Both Ford and Amazon have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the company, which plans to sell the R1T and the R1S in Australia. The most notable thing is that the R1T will feature Individual Wheel Drive (IWD), essentially assigning a motor to each wheel, which could make it the most capable off-roader to ever hit the market. 

 

Red Automotive Technologies

This Australian start-up is looking to change the game by offering a 4WD EV equipped with a diesel range extender. This Australian start-up is looking to change the game by offering a 4WD EV equipped with a diesel range extender.

This Australian start-up is looking to change the game by offering a 4WD EV equipped with a diesel range extender. The big news is that their 4x4 EV can dock to your home and transfer power to it, as well as generate revenue by exporting power to the grid. A juiced-up electric off-roader that can make you money? Sounds like a good idea to us. 

 

Ford F-150 Lightning

Ford has created an all-electric version of its iconic F-150 model. Ford has created an all-electric version of its iconic F-150 model.

If Bob Dylan going electric back in the ’60s caused controversy, wait till you see what happens now that Ford has created an all-electric version of its iconic F-150 model. Although unlikely to make it to Australia, the F-150 Lightning will arrive in the US in 2022 with two battery options, Standard and Extended Range, with the latter offering 483km of range and the former 370km.

 

Atlis XT

The Atlis XT will feature IWD and a top speed of 193km/h, range of 800km. The Atlis XT will feature IWD and a top speed of 193km/h, range of 800km.

Another model that may or may not see release in Australia - unless someone winches it across the ocean - the Atlis XT will feature IWD, a top speed of 193km/h, range of 800km, ground clearance of 380mm and 7700kg towing capacity. Atlis is developing its own battery technology and is making big claims of being able to recharge its EVs in as little as 15 minutes, but the talk has yet to be backed up with a functional demonstration. 

 

The future

With laws making the sale of ICE vehicles illegal in the near-future in some countries, expect everyone from Mitsubishi to Toyota to Land Rover to have electric 4x4s on the market in the coming years. 

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