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If snowmobiles can go electric, anything can

5 July 2019

Taiga Motors have cemented their place as Canada’s powersport pioneers with the reveal of the TS3 electric snowmobile range. They’ll be the first production e-snowmobiles available worldwide when they launch in 2020. We investigate what makes this such an achievement and why it proves that electrification is inevitable.

Taiga made waves last year with the Taiga Snow 2 (TS2) electric snowmobile prototype, the first of its kind in a segment known for its high emissions and low fuel efficiency. The TS3 platform will be used by 3 models due to be released in the 2020-21 Winter season: the Ekko, Atlas, and Nomad.

Each variant is designed to cater to a need in the snowmobile world. The Ekko is a mountain-crawler, the Nomad is a tourer & utility vehicle, and the Atlas is a versatile crossover with a performance edge. Taiga have confirmed availability for Europe and North America but have yet to arrange a worldwide release. It’s safe to say Australia won’t be a high priority on the international rollout.

Each will be offered in a standard package starting at $15,000 USD, with options to upgrade for extra performance or extended range. While that price tag seems steep, it isn’t much higher than combustion snowmobiles offered by competitors like Arctic Cat & Polaris. When you factor in the $2500 USD/year savings Taiga are projecting on maintenance and fuel, the difference starts shrinking very quickly.

Problem solving

It isn’t easy to electrify snowmobiles. They require small and manoeuvrable designs to work well on snowy mountain terrain and can’t perform certain roles if they’re too heavy. Designing electric alternatives is a double-edged sword: use bigger battery packs for the extra range? Or smaller ones to cut down on weight and volume?

This compromise is the sweet-spot Taiga’s platform is chasing, and a big part of what makes them such a triumph. The TS3 battery pack has only one less kWh than a Hyundai Ioniq and is contained in a fraction of the space & weight. They’ve also managed to cut 20% off the volume of the front section while including 30 litres of storage.

But size & weight aren’t the only obstacle facing e-snowmobiles. Canada’s snowy mountaintops can reach temperatures of -40° C, far below the -7° shown to cut EV range in half. Taiga had to find a way to keep their batteries warm or it wouldn’t matter how many kWh they squeezed into them.

That’s where their thermal management technology comes in. It keeps the batteries running at optimal temperatures when the surroundings get cold, working with the regenerative braking system to achieve up to 140 kms of range. They’re also DC fast charge-compatible so that range can be restored in as little as 20 minutes.

A milestone

Taiga’s TS3 platform is a perfect illustration of electric technology’s inevitable rise. They’ve beaten the cold, the weight restrictions, and the range problem with an elegant solution that will no doubt attract more players to the electric snowmobile market. As prices drop and efficiency rises there will be no reason to continue using combustion fuels for transport; when electric tech is viable for snowmobiles, it will be viable anywhere.

Is there a harder use-case for EV tech than snowmobiles? Let us know if you think so and we’ll write about it. In the meantime you can check out our other articles on the JET Charge blog.