Brutish electric 4x4 descends the Highlands with old-school 4WD guts
Scottish automotive startup Munro Vehicles today revealed its rugged all-electric 4x4. Cut from the same cloth as the Bollinger B1, the Munro Mark 1 is a bold, boxy off-roader specced to deliver decades of all-terrain productivity, exploration and just plain fun. Munro has stripped out the fancy electronics and computer logic, and taken things old school with a mechanical 4x4 with locking differentials. The solid-axled electric rig promises up to 280 kW of power and nearly 200 miles (322 km) of range per charge.
Munro intends to be Scotland's only volume production car company when it starts producing vehicles next year. It was founded in 2019 with the singular vision of developing the world's most capable off-road EV, after cofounders Russell Peterson and Ross Anderson came up with the idea while camping in the Highlands. The company name reflects those origins and is the Scottish term for mountains that exceed 3,000 feet (914 m) in elevation.
"The off-roader we were driving through the Highlands was combustion-engined, and it was really struggling on the steep climbs," recounts Peterson. "So we were musing how much better it would be with an electric motor.
"It dawned on us that there was a gap in the market for an electric-powered, four-wheel-drive, utilitarian workhorse," Peterson continues." 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."
You can't judge a book by its cover, but the Munro MK_1 definitely has the aesthetic of an ultimate go-anywhere vehicle down. Like so many other neo-4x4s, it's clearly inspired by the pre-2016 Land Rover Defender, albeit with even crisper lines, flatter body panels and sharper corners. It stands on a 130-in (330-cm) wheelbase and seats five people. The Bollinger-like looks come as no surprise, not only because both vehicles borrow from the Land Rover Defender, but also because Munro's head of design Ross Compton previously worked with both Bollinger and Atlis Motor Vehicles.
The Mark 1's boxy body comes mounted to a ladder frame built from 5-mm-thick galvanized steel. Munro plans to give buyers the option to select the material for the eight mounting points – rubber for a smoother, quieter on-road ride or solid aluminum for more payload strength and rigidity.
Munro was born from the idea that an electric powertrain would offer some clear benefits for off-roading, but the company doesn't believe the way forward is to put individual motors at both axles or all four wheels, like many other AWD EV makers do. Instead, it directs torque from a single axial flux motor to all four wheels via a mechanical 4WD driveline with standard center differential lock and available front and rear differential locks. The two-speed transfer case offers high and low gears.
"The best way to drive off-road is to ensure that the same amount of torque is delivered to each wheel and that all the wheels spin at the same speed," says Peterson. "And no matter how clever your computer is, you're still going to have problems if you've got a split driveline in the vehicle."
Munro's pancake-shaped motor is available in buyer's choice of 220- or 280-kW (295- or 375-hp) outputs. Buyers can also select between two lithium battery sizes – a base 61-kWh unit or an upsized 82-kWh pack that delivers up to 190 miles (306 km) of range. The Munro Mark 1 can charge in as little as 36 minutes using a DC fast-charger.
The 35-module NMC battery packs are enclosed in heavy-duty aluminum boxes and mounted below the vehicle. Because the Mark 1 is built to last half a century with proper care and maintenance, Munro intends to offer battery replacement and/or reconditioning options to owners after their pack's useful life. It guarantees each pack to 80 percent of original energy capacity for eight years/100,000 miles (160,934 km).
Munro has prepared its rigid axles in-house and surrounds them with a mix of aftermarket and motorsport-derived suspension components, including a 4x4 competition-grade coil-over linkage, radius arms and steering bar. The Munro Mark 1 offers a massive 48 cm (19 in) of ground clearance to breeze over obstacles that would devour the underbodies of other 4x4s or passenger trucks. Wading depth lists in at 80 cm (31.5 in).
The Mark 1 might have been thought up on a camping trip, but it sounds like its future will be more work-focused, serving as a workhorse for agriculture, construction, mining, search and rescue and other industries that need a reliable vehicle capable of traversing rugged terrain. It promises to rise to the task at hand with a 1,000-kg (2,200-lb) payload and 3,500-kg (7,700-lb) towing capacity. A standard Euro pallet fits neatly inside the rear load area, which includes various tie-down tracks and points.
The Munro Mark 1 is available for order now and starts at £49,995 (US$61,000) before VAT. Munro plans to begin hand-building the 4x4 at its East Kilbride headquarters in 2023 before kicking off series production at a larger facility in 2024. There, it will ramp up production to 250 vehicles a year, with plans to grow to 2,500 vehicles/year by 2027. Additional body styles (90- and 110-in wheelbase versions, perhaps?) will join the five-door Mark 1 starting next year.