With the parched deserts of Uzbekistan behind them, the test vehicles began the fourth week of their epic Solihull-to-Mumbai expedition in the ancient capital of Tashkent, before continuing eastward into the spectacular high mountains of Kyrgyzstan.
It was here that the Range Rover Hybrids and their drivers faced their toughest test yet. Heading into the Fergana mountain range, they were forced to tackle narrow and rutted mud tracks in total darkness. Although it was only 12 miles to the hill-top clearing where their tents could be pitched, covering that short distance took several hours. Heavy rains had main the steeply-inclined roads so wet and muddy that even these capable off-roaders had to fight their way forward yard-by-yard.
One day the convoy drove into icy winds above the snowline at 5875 ft (1760 m), looking down on a cloud-layer and soaring eagles. Next day the road climbed higher still to 11,000 ft (3350 m) reaching a vast meadowland plateau.
While travelling at such high altitudes, the team's medical expert checked each individual's heart rate and blood-oxygen saturation levels, in anticipation of possible altitude sickness when they cross into China and venture deeper and higher into the Himalayas.
Descending from these great heights towards the Kyrgyzstan capital, Bishkek, the Range Rover Hybrids were often able to travel on their electric motors only, gliding downhill in near-silence, the braking for hairpin bends being enough to regenerate the batteries’ charge.
The hybrid Range Rover prototypes use Land Rover's 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel engine and a 35kW electric motor to deliver 335bhp and achieve 44.1mpg combines. For more information on the hybrid technology, see our previous news item here: http://www.lro.com/news-reviews/2013/8/land-rover-launches-its-first-hybrid-vehicles/