You probably have a good idea of what you'd expect to see should you brave a trip to Antarctica: not many people, 12 million or so penguins, and lots and lots of ice. But you'll now find something you might not expect: a new electric vehicle.
The latest Venturi Antarctica is the world’s first electric polar exploration vehicle, and went into service at Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctica station last month. Its arrival means that EVs really have conquered every continent on earth.
The Antarctica is a compact heavy duty polar explorer fitted with go-anywhere caterpillar tracks, and was developed by Monaco-based EV manufacturers Venturi. You might know the firm from its Formula E squad and range of cars and bikes that have challenged for electric land speed records.
The first-generation Antarctica launched in 2019, and was tested in British Columbia, Canada. The newest version of the machine was revealed in June last year, and has been extensively upgraded so that it can be pressed into service near the South Pole.
Measuring 3400cm long and 2180cm high, the Antarctica weighs 2.5 tons and can carry up to six people plus equipment. There's room for two up front, with an easily adaptable rear section that features folding seats.
It is powered by a pair of 60kW motors, with power drawn from a 52.6kWh battery. That gives a range of 31 miles, although the machine can house a second battery for longer trips. Venturi says recharging takes between two and 18 hours, “depending on the context and the weather”. On that note, the machine can operate at temperatures up to -50C. Which is useful, because we hear Antarctica can be a bit fresh at times.
Venturi says the development of the Antarctica was inspired by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, after he visited Antarctica in 2009. The Prince wanted to develop a machine that could operate on the continent without affecting the ecosystem.
“Back then, there was no technology that allowed [a zero-emission vehicle] to operate on rough terrain at -50°C. This third version of the Antarctica is now optimal,” said Venturi president Gildo Pastor.
In its first week of operation in December, the Antarctica was used in several scientific missions, including maintenance work on a number of weather observation station and the Belgian atmospheric observation station located on a 2300-metre plateau.
The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, located on Utsteinen Nunatak in Queen Maud Land, opened in 2009 and is the only zero-emission base on the continent. It is run on solar and wind energy through its own smart grid, which features back-up generators It houses teams from the International Polar Foundation and Belgium.