Munro Off-Road BEV Kick-Starts Scottish Automaking

Car manufacturing has returned to Scotland and it’s an electric future in the shape of a BEV 4×4 hardcore off-road machine.

Munro Vehicles, has unveiled its first vehicle, the Munro Mk_1, designed, engineered and built in Britain the vehicle claims to be the “world’s most capable all-electric 4×4, born off-road to navigate the most challenging terrain and operating for up to 16 hours on a single battery charge”. The vehicle uses a 280kW electric powertrain employing an axial flux motor which claims critical advantages over a radial flux unit.

Also known as a ‘pancake’ motor, the compact nature of the axial flux motor enables weight to be reduced by half, from 80kg to 40kg in this vehicle, compared with a radial flux motor. It also enables the unit to be located between the two front-seat occupants in front of the vehicle’s bulkhead. This results in a near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, which enhances agility off-road.

Also, while most electric motors spin up to 15,000rpm and thus require a reduction drive, the Munro’s axial motor spins between 5,000rpm and 8,000rpm. This relatively low rotational rate allows for a reduction drive to be ditched together with the additional weight and complexity it brings, by enabling drive to be taken directly to the transmission transfer case from the motor.  By combining with a two-speed transmission, the motor can work in its optimum range where, the automaker claims, it performs with a much greater level of efficiency than a radial flux motor at low speed.

The vehicle claims to be able to carry a crew of five passengers to the most rugged and remote locations, accommodating a 1,000kg (2,200lbs) payload and 3,500kg towing capacity. Priced from £49,995 ($61,280) excluding purchase tax in five-door, five-seat, 130-inch wheelbase Utility guise, orders have come from locations across the globe including the UK, Switzerland, St Lucia, and Dubai. Several pre-sale agreements have been reached with fleet operators in key industries.

In 2024, Munro will expand from its current headquarters in East Kilbride to a new purpose-built factory in central Scotland, where production will scale to more than 250 units per year initially, leading to the creation of 300 new jobs. The new site will eventually produce 2,500 vehicles per annum.  Munro is the first automotive manufacturer to build cars at scale in Scotland since Peugeot-Talbot closed its Linwood plant in 1981, which the Rootes Group established in 1963.

The company was founded in 2019 by Russell Peterson and Ross Anderson, with Peterson assuming the CEO role and Anderson appointed head of powertrain. The idea, which is named after a Scottish mountain that exceeds a height of 3,000 feet, came to Peterson and Anderson during an off-road camping trip in the Highlands. Peterson, said: “We had already taken measures to reduce our own environmental footprints and had a lot of experience driving our own EV, and got quite used to the instant torque delivery. But the off-roader we were driving through the Highlands was combustion-engined and it was really struggling on the steep climbs. So, we were musing how much better it would be with an electric motor. On the return journey, we stopped at a café in Braemar, where a bank of 50kW rapid chargers were sitting empty and unused. Parked up nearby was a large group of combustion-engined safari adventure 4x4s of a type that are no longer manufactured and will have to be replaced eventually. 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 4×4 pick-up trucks that have come to dominate the market.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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