Venturi likes to take up a challenge, whether it is in terms of racing like Formula E or breaking the world land speed record for electric vehicles. The Monaco based engineering firm – that also constructs electric sports cars – is also developing an electric vehicle that must help researchers in doing their job at Antarctica. Therefore an eight-wheel drive off-road vehicle must operate in conditions at -40°C.
Prince Albert II of Monaco suggested the idea for this electric vehicle when he returned from Antarctica in 2009. After thorough feasibility studies, the vehicle designed by Venturi in Monaco is intended for scientific missions and follows the specifications provided by the French Polar Institute (IPEV).
It is intended to drive the final eight to ten kilometres towards the research area or sample source without polluting. The risk of contaminating of the collected samples is a serious issue since one additional molecule can threaten the quality of the analysis. As a result, these last kilometres are usually covered on foot or on skis.
In a part of the world that’s known as one of the most hostile to life, where daylight is only available 4 months out of the year, the possibility of moving easily in a safe vehicle at adequate speed becomes a real advantage.
The EV with caterpillar tracks developed by Venturi can also use eight-wheel drive. It showed its great maneuverability and ergonomic controls in the Southern Alps this winter over rugged terrain and slopes with inclines up to 40%.
With the goal of sending it to Antarctica, the engineers at Venturi Automobiles had to check the ease of handling and the quality of the motor functions of this first prototype in demanding conditions.
“We can say that the vehicle is off to a great start,” said Franck Baldet, testing engineer at Venturi Automobiles. “It met our expectations for the working sessions this winter and even surpassed them, which is always an excellent surprise when you’re working with an initial prototype.”
Gérard Jugie, former director of the French Polar Institute, worked on the vehicle’s specifications and found this first prototype very attractive: “Its handling, high-speed performance, and performance on inclines are impressive.
“It was really thrilling to participate in these first maneuvers in the real conditions of the vehicle’s use and to get a feel for the completion of a project that in the beginning seemed like only a fantasy.”
Jean-Paul Rouquier, ski resort and grooming manager, sees other applications as well: “If the Antarctica can be developed with different types of chassis, the vehicle will be very interesting for ski resorts in terms of transporting people and equipment, but also to use for high-altitude drop-offs. It’s the only vehicle of this type that’s 100% electric. For a prototype, it seems very complete.” And he adds enthusiastically: “I’d be glad to keep it as is. It’s very easy to steer. You get control of it in a minute. It’s also responsive and fast.”
Development work continues with analysing the gathered data. Further testing must ensure that the vehicle can operate at -40°C without any issues. These temperatures are challenging for batteries as well as other electronic components.
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Photos in courtesy of Venturi Automobiles and Palais de Monaco.