Is this the SUV of the future?

With a hybrid drivetrain like a locomotive and body made of fabric, is this the SUV of the future?

Another “boutique” automaker from England aims to upend the automotive industry. However, instead of with automobiles as McLaren has done, this company is targeting off-road vehicles.  The Pioneer, built by Ferring, is undergoing extensive testing, and the company is showing the vehicle to prospective buyers.   It is also has several brilliant design features.  Is this the SUV of the future?

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A company backed by automotive engineering pedigree

Ben Scott-Geddes, a former engineer for McLaren, Ferrari, and Caparo, is applying his proven automotive skills to building an off-road vehicle for explorers and emergency services.

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Impressive design specifications

Pioneers are often the first into unexplored terrain.  The Pioneer tries to live up to its name with a drivetrain that can go 4,350 miles between fill-ups. The Pioneer makes use of a hybrid drivetrain that powers the wheels with two electric motors, one on each axle.  Like a locomotive, it uses an internal combustion engine as a range extender for the electric motors.  Firing uses an 800 cc three-cylinder biodiesel engine, but alternative fuels such as alcohol can be substituted, depending on market demand.

When operating at maximum efficiency, the biodiesel engine helps deliver extra power to the batteries, which have a range of roughly 50 miles on their own. However, the electric motors do hard work of traversing climbing and traversing rugged terrain.

The range of batteries powering current electric vehicles can diminish significantly in response to extreme temperatures.  As a result, Lithium Titanate Oxide cells will be used in the SUV, which is better suited to dealing with harsh conditions.

Since the Pioneer utilizes electric motors for propulsion, torque is plentiful and instantaneous at 600 Nm (442 lb-ft). However, while impressive, this is not the most brilliant aspect of the Pioneer.

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Genius engineering

Weight factors heavily in automotive performance, regardless, if performance is off-road.  Despite its hefty bulk and hybrid drivetrain, the Pioneer weighs in at 3,306 lbs, over 600 pounds less than a two-door Jeep Wrangler. This weight savings is due to its unique body and aluminum frame with composite parts.

Rather than using steel, Ferring has opted for fabric for the vehicle’s body, a robust material comparable to that used in hiking boots. The fabric, according to the company, provides superior insulation than steel and is more forgiving off-road. In addition, it may bend instead of denting, and if it tears, it’s less expensive to replace or repair than a steel body panel.

Another unique feature of the Pioneer is its wheels.  They measure 22.5 inches in diameter, a size chosen for maximum utility.  It turns out that truck tires of this size are available worldwide and located even in the most distant parts of the planet.

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Closing thoughts

Fering has taken a unique approach to its off-road vehicle. Although it certainly has some special features, if the car lives up to expectations, I am sure that other automakers will incorporate some of these ideas into future vehicles.  This begs the question, is the SUV of the future?

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