Technology
June 11th, 2019
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Taiga Motors Ekko Electric Mountain-Specific Snowmobile

Electric snowmobile designer, Taiga Motors, has announced a third generation electric snowmobile platform called TS3, which they say will be the first production electric snowmobiles available.

The company is offering three different TS3 models, including the Taiga Motors Ekko—their mountain-specific model. Two other models will also be available: the Atlas, which is a crossover sled, and the Nomad, which is a utility/touring model. The company has made a number of significant improvements to the platform since the prototype TS2, which was the second generation of electric snowmobile.

From left to right: Taiga Motors Ekko, Atlas and Nomad models

Taiga Motors Ekko Electric Snowmobile

Improvements Made to Third Generation TS3 Platform

Several improvements have been made to the TS3 since the second generation TS2 prototype. The most immediately obvious is the body styling, which looks great and appears to be heavily inspired by the appearance of the BRP Ski-Doo Gen4 platform.

Range and Performance

Taiga is the first to admit that achieving effective range without prohibitive cost and weight is the most difficult challenge in electrifying over snow vehicles. Nowhere else is this more true than in the case of mountain snowmobiles, where lightweight is king.

For the TS3 generation, Taiga has increased the energy and power density of the powertrain by almost 35% for improved acceleration, top speed, handling and range. They claim that their powerplant now delivers “more power than leading 2-stroke engine blocks for half the weight.”

The Ekko model will feature two packages: “Standard”, which offers 120 hp, and “Performance” which is listed at 180 hp.

While electric motors are known to produce plentiful torque and in some cases power, the lynchpin to the effectiveness of an electric application in the mountains continues to be range. The range of the Ekko mountain model is claimed to be 98 km (61 mi) in the “Standard” configuration, and 131 km (81 mi) in the “Extended” version.

Battery and Weight

In pursuit of better battery performance, Taiga has improved its 27 kWh battery pack energy density by 30%. To put this into perspective, the entire TS3 Atlas snowmobile, including battery, weighs 271 kg (597 lb)—similar to what a 28 kWh battery in an electric car would weigh on its own.

The Standard version (98 km range) will have a “ride ready” weight of 242 kg (534 lb), while the Extended model (131 km range) will have a weight of 266 kg (586 lb).

In terms of charging, a DC fast charge would bring the battery to 80% in 20 minutes, while an AC 240V L2 would charge the battery in 2 hours. Now you won’t find any of these stations in the backcountry, but there could be useful application in places with power service, like ski resorts for example.

Suspension and Track

Each TS3 model will have model-specific front and rear suspensions. Taiga has replaced the TS2’s mono-shock suspensions with coil-over shocks up front. It is a standard independent double wishbone front suspension with 220 mm (8.66”) travel. By way of comparison, the BRP Ski-Doo Summit X features 215 mm of travel.

Interestingly, Taiga made the decision to design a 37.4” ski stance, rather than the more narrow 36”-ish stance that has become standard across the board in mountain models by the Big Four manufacturers in the past couple of years.

In the rear, there is now a more traditional suspension called the Rad-M multilink, which features 270 mm (10.6”) of travel. Again, for the sake of comparison, the 2020 Summit X features 239 mm (9.4”) of travel.

The more traditional rear skid and suspension will offer easier servicing, compatibility and lower cost than what has presented in the TS2 prototype.

The Ekko model will come with a 162” x 15” x 2.5” track only, with no option for a 3” paddle.

Ergonomics

A reduction in the overall size of the body area by 20% from the TS2 allows for better ergonomics. Increased knee clearance allows for more rider-forward positioning. The steering geometry has also been revised.

A front “trunk” storage area allows up to 30 L of storage space.

Availability and Pricing

Taiga says that it is “accepting reservations in North America & Europe, with customer deliveries targeted to begin end of 2020.” A refundable deposit allows customers to secure access to a test ride and to reserve a spot on the waiting list.

Although no specific pricing is made available, Taiga Motors suggests that pricing will start at roughly $15,000 USD.

Our Thoughts on the Taiga Motors Ekko TS3

Advantages

One of the biggest potential advantages of electric power is a zero maintenance powertrain. Not that modern 2-strokes require that much when they’re new, but the TS3 doesn’t require any at all. And the cost of operation is a lot lower—no fuel, no oil, no drive belts. That sounds sweet.

Another practical advantage of the electric motor for mountain users is that its output isn’t affected by elevation. And 180 hp is a lot! With the exception of the turbo-charged Yamaha Sidewinder, no stock mountain sled can touch that output, even at sea-level. At typical riding elevations over 2000 m, the Ekko would have a huge power advantage over every naturally-aspirated production mountain sled on the market. Not to mention torque off the scale.

A final potential benefit for users is the availability of custom terrain profiles. The ability to custom tune the output of the vehicle on the fly would be a boon, and a good way to conserve battery life when performance isn’t a top priority, such as the trail ride in and out of a zone.

 

Taiga Motors Ekko Banner copy

Disadvantages

But still, despite all the advancements in battery technology, 586 lb is still a lot of weight to be hauling around the mountains. Consider, for example, that Taiga will be in direct competition with Polaris, which produces a 413 lb (dry weight) Polaris PRO-RMK 163″ model. Add 11.5 gallons of fuel at roughly 6 lb each, and the 163” PRO-RMK still weighs 100 lb less than the “Extended” range Ekko. That’s a big difference.

But even if weight isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for some riders, range probably is. An “Extended” model range of 131 km sounds pretty good on paper. But how is that measured? Coasting on a flat, groomed trail in optimal conditions? That’s not how mountain sleds are used, not recreationally at least. We like to be in the steep and deep, and on the throttle hard. It’s difficult to believe that real-world range would be even close to the listed spec. And let’s not even talk about what happens when you run out of juice 30 km from the truck.

Ultimately, electric power doesn’t make sense from a recreational mountain snowmobiling standpoint yet. Heck, snowmobiles have got to be amongst the least efficient vehicles out there, making electrification incredibly challenging. And the mountain segment even more so. Until we’re willing to limit ourselves to very short rides, and/or ride a heavier snowmobile—which the market has shown that it is not—the current state of battery storage technology isn’t efficient enough yet to be competitive.

Now that isn’t to say that the TS3 models won’t find useful application in certain circumstances. Their low maintenance requirements could be a huge benefit for tour operators. And in places where charging infrastructure is more readily available, such as at ski resorts, the electric snowmobiles might find a happy home.

 

We don’t mean to hate on the idea of an electric mountain snowmobile. In theory, there is a lot of upside. And hey, we’re open-minded. We’d love to take the Taiga Motors Ekko for a spin, just to see what it’s like firsthand. And so we’ll keep watching as electric power technology continues to improve over time.

 

– MS