Earlier this year, I wrote about a really cool adventure. Embarking on a thrilling 17,000-mile adventure from the magnetic North Pole to South Pole, the “Pole to Pole” expedition Nissan Ariya was upgraded to take this crazy trip.
Crossover SUVs are not typically built for serious off-roading, lacking heavy-duty features like four-wheel drive and higher ground clearance. However, electric vehicles are changing this narrative with their rigid body structures, impressive torque, and simplified drivetrains. They are proving to be a viable alternative to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, and enthusiasts are starting to bring their potential out.
To get their Ariya ready for much greater challenges than it was built for, the team and Nissan 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 everything from snow to ice to swamps and deserts.
“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!”
The vehicle is still mostly stock, but has an upgraded suspension and 39-inch tires for extra stability and ease going over obstacles.
But, terrain isn’t the only thing the Pole to Pole Ariya has been through. It’s worked its way from the cold and barren terrain where the magnetic north pole used to be, and has been heading south since. In July, it encountered record temperatures in the desert Southwest, proving that Nissan’s thermal management is far better than it was in the LEAF. Then, they headed into Mexico, Guatemala, and eventually Panama.
There’s only one stretch of road that the crew of the Pole to Pole Ariya didn’t attempt: the Darien Gap. In fact, that stretch of road from Panama into Colombia has claimed many vehicles over the years, and many have lost their lives attempting to even cross it on foot. The terrain, the wet conditions, and the deep swamps all make for a route that even national governments haven’t dared try to build a highway or even a crappy dirt road through.
So, they had to ship the vehicle from Panama into South America, like any sane people would. So, if someone wanted to prove their mettle, there’s still a record of being the first EV across the Gap to be claimed!
Reflecting on the expedition in the Northern Hemisphere, Julie Ramsay remarked: “The experience so far has been incredible. Our Aria has attracted a lot of attention along the way. We have been welcomed by the kind and charming people that this adventure represents. I have been supported and helped by many people, and I feel truly grateful.”
A couple days ago, the team proudly announced that they reached the equator, parking the vehicle on an official equator line and monument in Quito, Ecuador. They reflected on the journey so far, and are quite proud of what they accomplished. While not the literal halfway point of the journey, it’s still the halfway point between the poles, making for a great symbolic milestone.
“We will keep pushing, we will keep rolling, and we will never give up!” they said on Facebook. The journey still has most of South America to go, and then they’ll need to move the vehicle to Antarctica during the summer to finish what will likely be the most dangerous and challenging portion of the journey. They aim to reach the South Pole by the end of the year, relying on a portable solar and wind generation trailer system to power the vehicle in places where there is no electrical infrastructure.
Proving That EVs Can Do It
Almost nobody will ever take a trip from pole to pole like this team. It’s not only expensive and dangerous, but very time consuming. Most people wouldn’t even want to do this. But, it’s something that really shuts the naysayers up.
“Our mission is to show that electric vehicles can tackle the harshest of environments — from the bitter cold of the poles to the hot and humid jungles of South America, and illustrate that they can meet the demands of drivers around the world, and encourage the switch to zero-emissions transport.” said Chris Ramsay. “To that end, we are thrilled that Nissan has joined the expedition. As a long-term Nissan LEAF owner and driver, I’m eager to get behind the wheel of my Ariya and put it to the ultimate test on this incredible 17,000-mile journey.”
The truth is that nobody has ever done this in any kind of vehicle, EV, ICE, or otherwise. So, to have an EV do what no gas- or diesel-powered vehicle has even done shows that EVs have not only arrived, but beat what came before them. Obviously being able to do an extreme one-off journey is very different from daily driving, and many places are going to need a lot more infrastructure for pain-free daily driving. But, the potential is there.
Doing this proves that the “no EV can do what an ICE can” trope is dead wrong.
The expedition they’re on already has proven that Nissan’s EVs have arrived, too. They didn’t fail the same way that a LEAF would have failed, and they’ve already conquered some serious challenges on the trip so far. So, the industry is improving greatly, too.
If an EV can do what no ICE vehicle has done, and they’re still improving, then there’s no way EVs will end up losing in the end.
Featured image provided by Nissan.
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