Shropshire Star

First Drive: Bedeo’s Reborn Electric Icons Defender gives new life to this old-school off-roader

Clever in-wheel motors aim to preserve the Defender’s character while bringing zero-emissions running. Jack Evans finds out what it’s like.

Bedeo Electric Defender

What is it?

Bedeo Electric Defender
Larger wheels are used to accommodate the electric motors

The Land Rover Defender is an icon of the off-roading world. Beloved by many for its hard-wearing nature and chunky, no-nonsense design, it’s still a car which many people rely upon to get the job done. But even ‘Landie’ enthusiasts will agree that it remains a very agricultural mode of transport with rough, inefficient engines sitting at its core.

It’s where Bedeo’s Reborn Electric: Icons series comes in. It’s a setup designed to help put new life into classic models through electric powertrains, reinvigorating them with a battery-powered setup. But does it take away the heart and soul of the Defender, or is it a great option for those after an alternative Landie experience? We’ve been finding out.

What’s new?

Bedeo Electric Defender
The motors are completely sealed – so water is no problem

Bedeo, located in Farnham, Surrey, has significant experience in the electric conversion segment. Approved by the large Stellantis group for its EV van improvements, it has a lot of learnings when it comes to making traditionally-powered models into new battery-powered models that can easily circumnavigate emissions zone charges by swapping out the older diesel engines in vans for cleaner electric and diesel-electric systems. Importantly here, this new battery-powered Defender weighs much the same as the older, diesel-powered version.

Within Bedeo’s Group sits Protean, with which it has worked closely for this new Icons series. Protean’s expertise lies in a very special way of utilising battery power – which is what we’ll be checking out in more detail shortly.

What’s under the bonnet?

Bedeo Electric Defender
The charging point is neatly integrated

While other electric vehicle conversions have existed before, what separates Bedeo’s setup is the in-wheel motors. Rather than having a single motor mounted on either of the car’s axles, this technique instead uses Protean’s clever in-wheel design to drive power to the wheel, negating the need for any modifications to be made to the axles. In essence, it could be applied to any vehicle – and it’s expected that Bedeo will be launching the next car in its range shortly. In total, you’re getting 320bhp from all four motors, enabling a 0-60mph time of around 10 seconds and a top speed of 80mph.

The standard Defender conversion utilises a 75kWh battery which should bring up to 153 miles of range, while optional 50kW fast charging – 22kWh as standard – will mean a full charge ranging from 90 minutes at a speedy charger to five hours at a home wallbox. The in-wheel motor system allows easier installation, improved distribution of torque and, most importantly, the ability to update pretty much any vehicle to zero emissions with little fuss. It’s all completely sealed, too, so there’s no need to worry about driving in water.

What’s it like to drive?

Bedeo Electric Defender
Wading depth is still excellent

Bedeo hasn’t aimed to take away the spirit of the Defender. It’s why, from the outside, it’s barely recognisable against a conventional petrol or diesel version. The only noticeable difference is the wheels, which are now larger in order to accept the clever independent motors. Bedeo has left as much as possible the same and, from behind the wheel, that’s easy to see. Naturally, you set off in eerie silence, lacking the usual thump of a diesel or petrol ahead of you, but the Defender’s rough ride and loose steering all remain – so it’ll still be very familiar to those who know this off-roader well.

Performance is more than adequate and a shade quicker than the ‘old’ Defender and during an off-road section the motors gave more than enough torque for tackling some stickier sections. There’s a good degree of regenerative braking, too, though it’d be nice to be able to change how much you get when you’re on the move – currently, Bedeo can only set this via a computer beforehand.

How does it look?

Bedeo Electric Defender
The in-wheel motors are unique to this Defender

As we’ve touched upon, Bedeo’s expertise lies in the electric setup, rather than the overall aesthetics of the Defender. It hasn’t gone down the route of other firms which equip this classic Land Rover with big alloys, widened body kits and spot lamps – this is a ‘normal’ Defender which just so happens to be battery-powered. It’s quite cool, however, and does mean you’re not going to attract too much attention – until people notice that the car isn’t making any noise.

It’s down to the owner to switch up how the exterior looks. The in-wheel system can, in theory, be applied to any Defender – so you’d be free to choose whichever one you fancy for the conversion.

What’s it like inside?

Bedeo Electric Defender
The thin-rimmed steering wheel is a neat touch

Again, Bedeo hasn’t changed too much on the inside of the Defender either. Naturally, there’s no gearstick anymore, replaced instead by a panel to the left of the steering wheel which controls the gear you’re in. The buttons themselves are chunky and easy to operate, though their modern font does look a little stark against the rest of the controls and features. You still need to give the doors a good slam to ensure they’re closed properly – so that hallmark touch of the standard Defender remains.

Aside from a rather luxurious headliner and a gloriously thin wooden steering wheel, it’s all very old-school Defender. As before, the focus here really is on the powertrain rather than the overall vehicle. We’re big fans of the clever rear-view mirror which features integrated data on the remaining battery level, too.

What’s the spec like?

Bedeo Electric Defender
Battery info is displayed in the rear-view mirror

Bedeo hasn’t been able to state how much the in-wheel setup will cost. However, it has told us that because the in-wheel technology costs a little more than a traditional conversion kit, it’ll end up being a more expensive proposition. As the technology develops, however, it’s expected that the cost will lower and become more affordable. We’d estimate that the motor system itself will cost in the region of £25,000 – and you’ll need a donor Defender to start with – so after the installation we’d expect things to be placed around the £90,000 mark.

That’s, of course, a decent chunk of cash. But the in-wheel motors bring extra life to an ageing model while ensuring it meets the latest emissions regulations easily.


Bedeo’s in-wheel motors open up a world of opportunity. Since they require very little adaptation, they’re ideal for drivers who don’t want to lose the spirit of the original car they’re using but fancy making the switch to an electric vehicle. With our test Defender, it’s clear that the character of this off-roader remains – it’s all just a little more up-to-date.

It’s easy to see how this technology could help give new life to ageing models, too. You’re doing all this without trading off any of the Defender’s off-road capability too, so providing you’re happy with a near-silent experience replacing the rattle of a diesel or petrol, there’s no reason why this system shouldn’t be a go-to.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.