Go-anywhere hybrid-EV ute is coming
An all-new, British company has launched an extended-range, electrically-powered adventure ute that is designed to handle the most demanding terrains.
The Fering Pioneer is the brainchild of ex-Ferrari and ex-McLaren engineer Ben Scott-Geddes, who has repurposed supercar and racing technology to build a go-anywhere 4×4 crew-cab ute, with a payload of 1.5 tonnes.
Despite its imposing appearance, the Pioneer measures only 5.5 metres in length and is around two metres wide and high. Because of its aluminium and composite material chassis and frame the Pioneer tips the scales at a modest 1.5 tonnes. The exterior panels are made of tough fabric.
This material, which is similar to the GoreTex canvas found in high-end hiking boots, can shrug off damage, is easily replaced and has better insulation properties than metal skins.
Power to the axles is provided solely by two electric motors – unusual for an off-road vehicle – that provide instant torque from zero revs. They provide a total of 600Nm of torque.
The Pioneer’s battery cells are not the same as you’d find in a conventional EV, as the usual lithium-Ion chemistry is affected significantly by extremes of weather. Instead, Fering has used more sophisticated Lithium Titanate Oxide cells, which are designed to survive extreme weather conditions.
Electric-only range is typical of the best hybrid vehicles, at around 80km, but the battery is supported by a Mercedes-Benz OM660, 800cc, three-cylinder, ‘range-extender’ combustion engine, powered by biodiesel.
By operating consistently at its most efficient level, the engine generates power to run the motors and charge the battery in normal driving. This means the battery can cover peak demands for power, such as hill climbing, using energy reserves that are then replenished while the vehicle is cruising, stationary or braking.
The combination of light weight and an efficient powertrain is said to result in exceptional fuel economy. Even with the batteries discharged, the Pioneer is expected to deliver around 4.7L/100km (50mpg in the old money).
That fuel efficiency also means the Pioneer should have unparalleled ability to live ‘off-grid’ and survive expeditions to remote areas without having to worry about refuelling.
With long-range tanks fitted, the Fering Pioneer is claimed capable of driving for 7000km without needing a fuel stop or recharging from the grid. If such extreme range isn’t needed, the fuel tanks can be swapped for water tanks.
As the Fering Pioneer is designed with adaptability in mind, it can easily be modified or upgraded to suit the customer’s needs and intended purpose. Bigger batteries and different range extenders can be used, such as an alcohol-fuelled engine for Brazil or a fuel cell.
The combination of a battery and generator also makes the Pioneer ideal for emergency service use, where electrically-operated rescue equipment and lighting can be used in remote locations.
This adaptability means the Pioneer is not expected to have an ‘end of life’ which will require it to be disposed of and recycled. It is easy to repair and upgrade giving it an indefinite life span. Should it ever need to be recycled, there is far less material to recover than a comparable 4×4 vehicle or even a similar sized van.
Further examples of the practical thinking which has gone into making the Pioneer ‘extreme adventure ready’ include the optional choice of tyres. Available 22.5-inch rims accept standard-size truck tyres to ensure easy availability in the remotest areas of the globe.
The Union Jack symbol moulded into the tailgate isn’t just to proudly signify the Fering’s British heritage either. The bars of the flag act as strengthening ribs to ensure rigidity in the panel.
The first prototype Pioneer is already going through a rigorous testing process and being assessed by early customers and organisations. Series production is scheduled to start in the UK during the first half of 2022.
Does all this high-tech come cheaply? Well, no, so projects pricing is somewhere around the US$200 grand mark. (Still you’re paying $170 grand for a 1.5-tonne-payload, US-made crew-cab ute these days…
The team behind the Fering Pioneer is impressive.
Ben Scott-Geddes was Director of Innovation, Body In White at Ferrari; formerly Head of Advanced Concepts at McLaren and Technical Director of Caparo Advanced Composites, where he was responsible for the record-breaking T1. He worked under Gordon Murray building the McLaren F1, the F1 Le Mans winners in 1995 and subsequently the winning BMW V12 LMR in 1999.
Kieran Singleton has extensive experience of programme management of new vehicle concepts for automotive OEMs, including management of R&D activity, design & engineering, prototype build and whole vehicle testing. Kieran served as an officer in the British Army and his portfolio includes military vehicles, electric city car concepts and the TVR Griffith.
David Seesing is an experienced design manager with an automotive industry history, delivering concept and production vehicle designs. His prior design roles include work for Bentley, Bugatti, Daimler and TVR, leading the design development of the TVR Griffith. David holds an academic position at the Royal College of Art.
Dan Primrose has worked the design offices of McLaren Automotive, the Red Bull F1 team, Caparo Vehicle Technologies and, most recently, Gordon Murray Design. His design work includes the McLaren SLR, Advanced Concepts for MP12c onwards, Caparo T1, BMW i5 Concept and the Zoox concept.
Chris Wright is a specialist in advanced composite construction, with experience of working in automotive and marine. He has been involved in building power boats and racing yachts, most recently with Sunseeker International. In automotive he has worked with Aston Martin, Caparo, McLaren and Mercedes-AMG.
Mac MacKenney is one of the world’s most accomplished automotive expedition leaders. Since 1996 he has planned, trained, equipped, supported and led teams on expeditions throughout the world. Mac is also Founder and Director of Driven to Extremes, an organisation that supports military veterans suffering from PTSD by taking them on challenging vehicle adventures and expeditions.
Chris Brady is an engineer, designer and entrepreneur. He founded and built Acro Aircraft Seating to a world-leading position, securing BGF funding and winning the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 Award in 2017.
Will Archer is an entrepreneur, investor and start-up specialist. He has built global businesses in research, consulting, recruitment and benchmarking. Will has extensive advisory experience with government agencies and education providers worldwide.