Polar Concept by Ian Nisbett

Thomson Reuters - 2011 South Pole Expedition Concept Vehicle. In December 2011, exactly 100 years since Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole, a three man team will attempt to smash the world record for the fastest overland crossing to the Pole. Sponsored by Thomson Reuters Eikon, the team will use a revolutionary new concept vehicle designed by UK design consultancy Ian Nisbett Design Ltd. The concept vehicle has been designed with two goals - to break the Antarctic crossing speed record, and also to act as a blueprint and inspiration for a new era in faster, safer and more environmentally friendly Polar travel.

Ian Nisbett Design (IND) is a consultancy which specialises in transportation design and has a wide portfolio of expertise spanning all forms of transport including marine, aerospace, automotive, commercial and leisure projects. IND also has a proven track record in creating innovative bespoke vehicles designed to exact individual needs, and this was key in Thomson Reuters selecting IND to design the concept vehicle.

Through detailed research, and a close working relationship with the expedition team, IND were able to build a clear vision of the type of vehicle concept needed to master the exacting Polar conditions. A vision driven by the unique environment and working conditions in the Antarctic, and informed by the state of the art new technology employed in the vehicle. The classic design doctrine states that 'form follows function' - for the Polar Concept Vehicle it was a case of 'form inspired by function'. There are no superfluous or unnecessary features or styling 'add-ons' - everything is active, purposeful and improves the vehicle.

Unlike many pure 'concept cars' (as you'll see at Auto shows) this vehicle had to be designed and engineered to perform. It had to be strong, durable and reliable - ultimately if it fails or breaks down then the expedition teams lives are in danger. Beyond strength and durability, a wish list was drawn up establishing the key factors for the concept vehicle : More fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, greater range of un-supported travel, faster coverage while offering passengers a warm and comfortable environment, greater ice crevasse and impact protection, extreme weather operation, inspire future Polar transportation to open up new science and exploration opportunities and faster, safer, greener were the key words which inspired IND and the expedition team.

The Concept Polar Vehicle delivers : Faster - Lightweight construction coupled with a supercharged V6 engine powertrain, oversized wheels and tyres with snow/ice specific tread patterns, durable long travel suspension systems with adjustable settings for conditions.

Safer -Ice crevace protection bars and built in snow anchors, crush proof passenger safety cell cage, real time GPS tracking with navigation and weather updating and Intelligent in -car safety system monitors.

Greener - Low Co2 Bio Fuel engine with multi-condition engine management control, lightweight construction / low kerb weight and solar and wind turbine energy systems which power in-car systems

In order to ensure durability and reliability a proven production vehicle platform was used as the basis for the Polar Concept Vehicle. This decision was also taken to establish the design concept as a truly viable proposition for future Polar travel. Using a production vehicle platform would reduce development costs and allow a limited production run of similar vehicles to be realised much more quickly. Starting with a clean sheet of paper could, potentially, have given rise to an even faster, more extreme vehicle - however, the opportunity to inspire a new era of viable Polar vehicles was a key goal for this project. The current range of vehicles in Antarctica are slow and cumbersome with limited range, an extremely high carbon footprint and minimal safety measures. They are also very heavy, which means actually transporting them to the area (by air) is extremely expensive and environmentally corrupt. The only other form of powered transport available is the snow mobile - which though quick and agile has obvious safety issues and limited range and practicality. The Thomson Reuters Polar Concept Vehicle offers a truly revolutionary, dynamic and viable option for the Antarctic continent.

The exterior design of the vehicle features a strong powerful stance enhanced by the wide track suspension and huge ice/snow tyres. The cut away wheel arches and coupe rear section give the vehicle a sleek and agile feeling. The coupe rear houses the hi tech energy systems as well as extra range fuel and storage. The coupe styling improves aerodynamic performance while the dramatic air scoops and outlets feed the energy systems. Front and rear 'masks' (inspired by ski goggles and masks) are specified to offer protection as well as mounting points for the essential crevasse bars and winches. The purposeful front mask is matched by the scoops and bulges prominent on the bonnet, necessary for the powerful, yet eco friendly, supercharged engine. The semi external safety cage works in combination with the internal cage to offer unrivalled levels of crush proof safety for passengers, while also protecting the full size solar roof panels.

Many of the iconic design features of the Concept Vehicle illustrate the focussed, and function inspired, design ideology employed throughout the project. A good example of this is the large cut-away wheel arches on the vehicle. The thinking behind these was inspired by the key goals of the project and also through real world experience of the expedition team. By cutting away the arches weight is saved through the obvious reduction of the amount of bodywork metal - if the vehicle is lighter it goes quicker, is more agile and uses less fuel. The extra clearance also allows greater wheel and suspension travel - which again helps with speed and agility. The extra clearance also allows for easier access for maintenance and repair, as well as allowing adjustment on the tuneable suspension. The exposed inner areas of the wheel arches are skinned with smooth surface panels, panels treated to resist snow and ice adhering to them. Previous vehicles used to cross the Antarctic suffered from snow and ice being kicked up into the underside and wheel arches of the vehicle. Due to the extreme temperatures this snow and ice stuck to the vehicles and in certain circumstances was adding hundreds or even thousands of kg's onto the vehicle weight.

The interior design concept is inspired by the same key project principles mentioned earlier. The iconic design is totally focussed on driving enhancement, passenger safety and well being and fitness for purpose. The IP (instrument panel) is simple and functional with direct driver orientated information shown on the LCD binnacle and A pillar mounted dials. The centre stack comprises a huge, oversized, touch screen LCD unit which offers information and control for vehicle systems and real time GPS navigation and tracking. The gearbox shift control panel has information and control for the intelligent gearbox, torque split and differential locks. The internal safety cage system can be seen in elements of the doors, floor, centre console and IP and adds to the functional design and styling while offering passengers a greater sense of protection and well being. Two carbon 'racing' seats with four point harnesses are used for driver and passenger with the rear section of the cab employing a sleeping/rest area with part time seating and harness - this area can also be used for stowage. Air and heating vents throughout the interior maintain a warm and comfortable environment. In car systems are powered by the solar and wind turbine energy - so essential survival systems are not reliant on engine power.

Source: Ian Nisbett

Polar Concept by Ian Nisbett