Nissan Ariya electric SUV, image provided by Nissan.

Nissan’s “Pole to Pole” Ariya Adventure EV Unveiled

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Crossover SUVs are typically not designed to be used for serious off-roading, as they don’t have the same kind of heavy-duty build or off-road features that more rugged vehicles have. For example, crossovers tend not to have a full four-wheel drive system, nor do they tend to offer higher ground clearance and tougher suspension systems. On top of that, the lack of specialized body protection can lead to expensive repairs if taken off the beaten track.

But, electric vehicles are starting to upend these assumptions. More rigid body structures (often due to the battery pack), excellent low-end torque, and simpler drivetrains give them more of an edge than their ICE cousins. Nissan has recently been taking full advantage of this with a modified version of its new Ariya electric crossover, and it’s going to need to survive a grueling “pole to pole” trip.

Embarking on a thrilling 17,000-mile adventure from the magnetic North Pole to South Pole, the Nissan Ariya electric SUV was showcased in Arctic-like conditions by the extraordinary Pole-to-Pole expedition team today. This specially designed and rugged version of this all electric vehicle is an ideal companion for any daring excursion (assuming it survives, of course).

This incredible journey is set to begin in March, and the Ariya will face lush but demanding landscapes on its way — from glacial fields and deep snow banks to steep mountain trails and desert dunes. Nissan has partnered with Arctic Trucks, experts of ice exploration vehicles, for its design and engineering skills to make sure that the vehicle is capable of traversing such challenging terrains.

“One of the things that underpins all the adventures we do is that we take a standard production EV and aim to make minimal changes to clearly demonstrate its real, everyday capabilities, regardless of where you are driving it. Our Nissan Ariya is no different as the vehicle’s drivetrain and battery has remained factory standard, demonstrating just how capable and versatile the production Ariya is,” said Chris Ramsey, Pole-to-Pole EV Expedition Leader. “We’ve modified the suspension and widened the wheel arches so we can benefit from the stable platform and support of the 39-inch BF Goodrich tyres. I’m incredibly excited to get behind the wheel of what was already a brilliant vehicle, but now feels equipped to take on the ends of the earth in style!”

To ensure a comfortable and controlled journey all the way to the South Pole, Nissan has made minimal adjustments to Chris and Julie’s car but with notable changes. The suspension was modified for better handling on extreme terrains, while 39-inch tires were added for improved stability. But that’s not all — when combined with e-4ORCE, Nissan’s advanced electric AWD system will aid the vehicle in getting over and around tough obstacles.

The team won’t have to give up all of the comforts of home, and electric power helps avoid that. As a self-proclaimed coffee aficionado, Chris will be lavished with an integrated on-board espresso machine that is supplied with sustainably sourced beans. This much needed caffeine boost will help him remain focused during the lengthy, lonely parts of his journey where he can also use a drone to document the picturesque scenery around him; this incredible device launches directly from the utility unit placed atop his vehicle’s roof.

But, you’re probably wondering how on earth an EV will have the power to actually go from the South Pole to the North Pole. Nissan isn’t sending a gas generator along. Instead, an ingenious portable renewable energy unit was designed specifically to charge the Ariya during Chris and Julie’s journey through polar regions. This exceptional invention consists of a lightweight wind turbine and solar panels that will harness high winds and lengthy daylight hours for maximum charging potential when they take breaks along the way.

“The planning and preparation for Pole-to-Pole has been such a big part of our lives over the past four years so I am really looking forward to getting the expedition underway in March,” said Julie Ramsey, the co-driver for this expedition and Chris Ramsey’s wife. “We’re going to discover so many interesting initiatives from communities and individuals who are taking positive action against climate change and I’m looking forward to sharing these experiences and stories with everyone. We are doing something that has never been attempted before, a world-first, and ultimately that is what makes it so exciting.”

Why This Matters

One of the big challenges with EVs is efficiency. To make efficient city commuters and highway cruisers requires a focus on not wasting too much energy on things you don’t need on pavement. Sleek shapes, low rolling resistance tires, and lightweight construction tend to rule the day, but this has left the emerging electric truck market in a bad spot. To survive the extra strain of doing things people expect trucks to do, a lot of range is lost.

As far as we know (and we’ve reached out to Nissan to ask more about this), there aren’t any plans for any production vehicles like this expedition vehicle. But, proving that EVs built originally for efficiency can be adapted to serve more extreme needs could prove to be a game changer.

As I pointed out in an article last year, enthusiasts have been doing this with Tesla Model 3 and Y vehicles, even taking them to Moab. As you’d expect, range is lost in the process, but the vehicles are still plenty capable of getting from Supercharger to Supercharger, so it’s not a big deal. Showing enthusiasts that more EVs can do this could lead to DIY and the aftermarket to produce parts for adventurers, ranchers, and other people living out in “the boonies” to be able to have a more efficient rig than a Hummer EV.

More importantly, electric trucks tend to be very expensive, so adapting cheaper vehicles to serve off-pavement can help more people be able to afford an EV at all.

The other side of this is that manufacturers are eventually going to want to offer Subaru-like EVs. Plenty of people don’t want a traditional truck, but want to be able to go off the beaten path. With proof of concept projects like this “pole to pole” expedition, manufacturers will have solid proof that ruggedized versions of cheaper EVs are possible, and even desirable.

Featured image provided by Nissan.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba