This is either the craziest idea to hit the snow, or one of the coolest. Produced by the Austrian company Mattro, it's called the Ardenner and it features not one, but three snowmobile-like tracks clawing into the snow and ice to provide a great deal of forward thrust. And the coolest thing: It's all electric.
Tyrol-based electric vehicle developer and manufacturer Mattro is presenting its newest prototype at the Interalpin trade show this April in Innsbruck, Austria. No doubt this beastie will stand out from the latest poles and bindings and après ski-wear.
Looking like a cross between a snowmobile and something that Mad Max would ride in colder climes, the Ardenner is very close to being a tracked version of a Can-Am Spyder three-wheeled motorcycle. Just like with the Can-Am, the triple-track configuration provides more stability, but with all three tracks pawing at the snow, the levels of grip and acceleration must be phenomenal. So apart from the cold, the Ardenner should be loads of fun.
Not that the concept of "fun" is alien to the folks at Mattro. These are the same transportation engineers that two years ago introduced the off-roader Ziesel. The Ziesel can best be described as a tracked armchair – like something a Bond villain would use, minus the lasers.
The Ardenner, on the other hand, seems to be all business and all eco-friendly at the same time. Developed by a team of young engineers to show the possibilities of electric power, the aim was to produce a new vision for snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles by starting from scratch, ignoring conventional boundaries and constructing a new concept of what such a vehicle would look like.
"Any vehicle layout is build around the power train. The motor choice defines the whole construction – from the chassis to the appearance. The off-road and snowmobile market was missing an ideal vehicle based on electric power train," says Alois Bauer, engineer and founder of Mattro.
We're not sure that we'd agree wholeheartedly with that – think of the large number of Italian vehicles that put appearance first, and then cram the engineering in later – but we will give Alois and his crew big props for creating a completely new type of driving machine instead of converting existing machinery to battery power.
The Ardenner is not something the company kluged together over a weekend. Mattro has had the tracked trike in development since the summer of 2014. From the get-go, the goals were set high: no emissions, as silent as possible, all-terrain capable, safe to ride on extreme inclinations, and able to haul heavy loads.
"We found tracks to be the ideal choice. Skis or similar would have meant limitation", explains Bauer. By ditching the conventional skis up front, the Ardenner can easily move from snow to any other terrain and back again without a hiccup. And thanks to the tripod layout, the third track out back provides stabilization for the load bed, and will be extremely helpful in difficult terrain and in times of uneven weight distribution.
Another important advantage of an all-electric drive is the ability to control each track individually, without losing efficiency. There is no gear box or transmission that will soak up engine power. "Every one of the three tracks has its own hub motor. Our electrical engineers were able to create rotational speed-based steering that changes intelligently along with the speed in a way that optimizes safety and control," says Bauer.
The dimensions of side panels and leg room were defined according to the safety of the overall design. It was meant to not only seat two persons comfortably, but also offer more transportation capacity than other snowmobiles. This is why the loading bed was designed for more than 250 kg (over 500 lb) of cargo.
In addition to being able to tote around all that weight, the rest of the specs are plenty impressive as well. We've already mentioned the three software-controlled electric motors living in each wheel hub. Mattro says they're liquid cooled, which seems like playing to the safe side, since ducting cold, snow-covered mountain air should do the trick.
Power? How about 1,400 Nm (over 1,000 ft lb) of torque and 50-80 kW of peak power, depending on what the battery control system calls for, moment to moment. That means this thing should accelerate like a scalded cat. The top speed is listed as " > 80 km/h" or just under 50 mph. Nothing to really write home about, but with all that torque scooting you forward, you'll probably reach that top speed in a frighteningly short period of time. The turning radius is stated as 4 meters (13 ft), which is really small for something with tracks. The lithium-ion battery specs out at 25k Wh/100V, and the vehicle's dimensions are 355 x 155 x 120 cm (length x width x height) or roughly 11 feet long by 5 feet wide and standing just under 4 feet tall.
Testing and optimization are planned for this summer and Bauer is very excited. "The team cannot wait to test it outside on the mountains and glaciers in Tyrol and experience it firsthand after all the CAD work and simulations," he says.
We bet. We also bet the Ardenner will be a complete blast to drive. Despite the tendency to look at this as being crazy fun for pent-up engineers, we can also see this as being a very pragmatic and functional vehicle choice for farmers, ranchers and land owners that have to deal with wide varieties of terrain in changing weather conditions.
If you've got land to work and it's early February with more snow on its way, the Ardenner might just be your work vehicle of choice in the near future.
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