Antarctica's only electric exploration vehicle in the shop for key upgrades
In development for more than a decade, the Monegasque high-performance electric vehicle constructor Venturi was finally set to work in Antarctica at the end of 2021. Now the first and only electric polar exploration vehicle has undergone key upgrades to help it survive higher temperatures.
Between December 2021 and February 2022, the Venturi Antarctica has been used to ferry teams of scientists to sites around the Belgian Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station without risking contamination of samples from tailpipe emissions.
The vehicle's tracks are powered by a pair of 60-kW (80-hp) motors, and its 52.6-kWh battery pack gives it a per-charge range of 50 km (31 miles). During its first summer it clocked up some 500 km (310 miles), with the battery bank replenished between trips by the research station's wind and solar installations. A spare battery pack can be carried in back with equipment for extended expeditions if required.
The Venturi Antarctica was designed to operate in the Antarctic winter, where temperatures can get as low as -50 °C (-58 °F). However the region is currently basking in a summer heat of -10 °C (14 °F), necessitating some modifications by a visiting team from Venturi.
The engineers replaced the sprockets that drive the tank tracks, to prevent build up of compacted snow and rectify resulting performance issues. A new ventilation system was added to the six-person passenger compartment to cool down the interior when the Antarctic sun, coupled with heat from the power electronics, make things a little too toasty for occupants. And new air intakes and vents were installed to the front and rear of the mini tank to help with underframe cooling of those power electronics.
The scientists at the research station are currently only making journeys of 40 km (25 miles) due to inconsistencies in the snow affecting per-charge range. This issue will be dealt with in the next round of upgrades.
"In 2009, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco asked me to think about designing an electric polar exploration vehicle," said Gildo Pastor, president of Venturi Automobiles. "Version after version, we made progress until this Antarctica III entered service. I am delighted that our virtuous Monegasque machine is meeting the needs of the International Polar Foundation and the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station. We will be going back to the site in less than a year’s time, to continue the optimization process."