With Prince Albert II of Monaco at the wheel for the last session, the electric vehicle (EV) Venturi Antarctica has just completed its first test campaign.
This EV with caterpillar tracks 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. Considering the conditions in which it is used, it should in the future allow various personnel to handle the vehicle without specific training.
"We can say that the vehicle is off to a great start..." says Franck Baldet, testing engineer with 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."
A vehicle that Prince Albert wanted for the scientific community in Antarctica.
Prince Albert II of Monaco suggested the idea for this electric vehicle when he returned from Antarctica in 2009.
After long feasibility studies, the vehicle designed by Venturi in Monaco is intended for scientific missions and follows the specifications established by the French Polar Institute (IPEV).
Around scientific stations or during drop-offs near research areas, it is intended to drive the last 8 to 10 kilometers towards the research area or sample source without polluting. This is a major issue because any risk of contaminating the collected samples must be avoided, since one additional molecule can threaten the quality of the analysis.
Today these last kilometers 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.
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."
The only vehicle of its kind in the world
Jean-Paul Rouquier, ski resort and grooming manager, sees other applications as well: "If Antarctica can be developed with different types of chassis, the vehicle will be very interesting for ski resorts (transporting people, equipment, 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: "and 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 very fast."
This first test campaign has been very positive, but there is still much work to be done before a trip to Antarctica. Today, the Venturi Antarctica can be driven in sub-zero temperatures and on different types of snow. But its design is intended for it to be operated at -40°C. Antarctica must reach still another level to function effectively in extreme cold. This is true for its batteries but also for all its electronic components and other materials. This will be the crucial issue for the next test campaigns, after all the data gathered over these last weeks has been analysed.
Source and top image: Venturi Automobiles