This Polar Exploration Vehicle Is All-Electric
The Venturi Antarctica is, literally, a low-carbon polar exploration vehicle fit for a prince. That is to say, Prince Albert II of Monaco, who upon returning from an expedition to the Antarctic summoned Gildo Pastor, President of a Monaco-based high-performance electric vehicle company named Venturi, to develop a zero-emissions solution for scientific research stations. The year was 2009. The team at Venturi began to work on prototypes right away, unveiling its first concept at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Over a decade later and in its third generation of development, Venturi introduced its Antarctica 2021. Venturi claims this tracked ultimate overlanding rig is the first electric polar exploration vehicle.
It’s not Venturi’s proverbial first rodeo when it comes to high-profile, specialized electric vehicles. Antarctica’s lead designer, Louis-Marie Blondel, and Venturi’s Technical Director, Franck Baldet, were both instrumental to the Venturi Formula E race team. They also worked on the Venturi VBB-3 electric vehicle that went 341 mph, as well as the record-setting Voxan Wattman electric motorcycle. They were able to incorporate lessons learned from these programs into the development of the Antarctica.
Measuring 11.4 feet long, 6.6 feet wide, and 7.2 feet high, the Venturi Antarctica is deceivingly compact in size, but still hefty at 5,500 pounds. Any vehicle with tracks in lieu of traditional wheels and tires is automatically special, but what makes the Antarctica even more exceptional is its electric drivetrain that’s designed for an external operating temperature as low as negative 76 degrees. Much of the rig’s design was geared around the challenge of making batteries and electrical systems behave in such extreme cold temperatures, a problem mitigated by maintaining optimal thermal heat. The Antarctica’s battery capacity is 52.6 kWh, and it has two 60 kW motors (one per track).
A tubular steel chassis underpins the Venturi Antarctica, while carbon fiber makes up the bodywork. Interestingly, the body is glued together (by a crazy adhesive that stays stretchy at very low temperatures) and then attached to the frame so that there are no weld points on the panels that cover the chassis. This makes for a better seal and helps account for the differing expansion and shrinkage rates of the steel chassis and body panels in extreme temperatures.
The windows of the Venturi Antarctica are double-gazed and have a full centimeter of space between the two layers—because where the Antarctica goes, it’s very cold. Also for this reason, a variety of insulating materials were used throughout depending on the application, including polyurethane, fiberglass, and aerogel, a fancy silica-based composite developed by NASA.
The totally custom suspension is a multi-link setup with springs and two sock absorbers per track. The tracks on the latest iteration are wider, allowing for more contact and traction. The flexible, natural rubber tracks were custom made by Michelin-owned Camso. Under the tread is a belt consisting of aramide rather than metal, helping limit vibration.
The cockpit has room for two pilots who can both control the Antarctica via a center-mounted joystick. On a practical note, the shared joystick beats driver changes in subfreezing conditions. It can hold up to four people in the rear, or the bench seats can fold for more cargo room. It has indicator lights, a horn, surround cameras, and cruise control.
Real-world testing of the Venturi Antarctica’s suspension, acceleration, braking, and insulation systems continues. Maybe being a scientist at a polar exploration base should be on every kid’s list if it involves driving something like this.
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