Since Mother Nature decided to give my city (Toronto) another icy blast, now seems like a great time to talk about snowmobiles. One of the greatest Canadian inventions that can be mentioned in the same conversation as the 56k modem and Java, the zesty snowmobile is great for traveling over frozen landscapes and catching sweet air. As with nearly any form of transportation, the machine faces an electric future, but Ski-Doo is making progress on that front with an electric model that sounds pretty cool, on paper. I’ll explain.
Called the Grand Touring Electric, this battery-powered snowmobile should let its rider dash through the snow with a certain level of serenity lacking in combustion-powered models. What’s more, while the Ski-Doo Grand Touring Electric doesn’t support DC fast charging, Level 2 charging is supposedly rather quick with a claimed 10 to 80 percent time of 90 minutes; a dry weight of 539 pounds isn’t terrible for an EV.
For context, that’s only nine pounds more than the dry weight of an admittedly much faster three-cylinder Rotax 900 ACE-powered Ski-Doo Grand Touring Sport, and you have to put gasoline and oil in that thing. It’s also worth noting that this battery-powered sled is also sold with different cowling as a Lynx Adventure Electric in Europe, likely as that Finnish brand is more familiar on that side of the pond.
This new electric Ski-Doo sounds neat, but it comes with a caveat – you can’t actually buy one yet. What Ski-Doo is doing instead is building these sleds for Uncharted Society outfitters and tour operators so that people going on snowmobile tours and renting sleds can get a taste of electrification without having to figure out charging an electric sled way out in the bush.
Yes, while whizzing along on a silent sled should be great fun, figuring out how to charge it sounds very un-fun. As a Canadian, I can confirm that some of us keep snowmobiles locked up at cottages during powder season. Having a spare 240-volt plug socket at a cottage is a very rare thing, to say even less of the Level 2 public charging network in remote, snowy places. At that point, you’re kind of left with just Level 1 charging which simply isn’t very quick.
Then there’s the fact that performance might disappoint regular snowmobile enthusiasts. Ski-Doo claims a top speed of just 37 mph, and range when sticking to 25 mph is a mere 31 miles. If you’re used to bombing down wide-open trails, that just won’t compare with a combustion-powered model. However, if you’re on a sightseeing expedition with friends in an unfamiliar location and aren’t a regular snowmobiler, 25 mph may be plenty, so it seems that Ski-Doo’s laser-focus on guided tour operators puts the Grand Touring Electric sled in the right pocket of the market.
I’m sure the operators will appreciate the lack of engine oil to change, the lack of an air filter to dirty, and the lack of combustion chambers to hydrolock if someone has a severe moment of 404: skill not found. It sounds like the perfect trial environment for technology that will eventually make its way to a Ski-Doo you can actually buy, so I’d be curious to see how one of these sleds is like to ride. In any case, the future of snow toys sounds exciting. If electric cars are anything to go by, electric snowmobiles should get more capable insanely quickly.
(Photo credits: BRP)
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CANADIAN INVENTION!?!? OH NO YOU DIDN’T!!
(I’m extremely proud that the snowmobile was invented in Wisconsin)
Level 2 is just 240V x 25A, so it isn’t too far out of the ordinary. It could be recharged on 120V x 15A overnight from empty to full.
I like the e-bikes and I think they have a self-evident future. e-snowmobiles….batteries just arent there yet. Cold performance, charging issues, weight, price… Maybe my grandkids will ride them.
A regular e-bike will be bought soon for the Ms. and I to cart the kids around, I can see the progression to an e-dirtbike or moto from there for them.
And most importantly, resistance. Snowmobiles are drag machines, that track does not freewheel easily, you barely ever use the actual brakes while riding unless you’re really pushing it.
you mean like… regen?
The silence is nice, but otherwise this seems crap. I think snowmobiles are one of the last category of motor vehicles where electric makes really sense. Batterys are big and heavy and their performance suffer in freezing temperatures, which are the traits you absolutely don’t want to have in a snowmobile.
These other Canadians have had this covered. Up to 100km range, enough for going to town to get drunk and avoiding the DUI stops on the way back. Which is the main reason so many Canadians snowmobile anyway. That and the 500 metre trip out to the ice fishing shack…
Silent, clean (especially compared to two strokes), perfect for recreational vehicles and watercraft.
I’m not sure about the pricing, though. I haven’t shopped for this sort of stuff. I suspect it’s a bit high.
As usual here are the “They are not as perfect as the current gas “whatever’ thing that has been developed for X decades so don’t even bother or attempt any EV in any way.” comments.
There are places and situations that these will work for, Let private industry and capitalism do their thing.
I imagine that people 100 years ago complained that the snowmobiles of the day were inferior to dog sleds and that no further development and production should happen.
Nothing is getting developed here from the 6 of these they will sell. New battery tech isn’t going to be developed just for snowmobiles. New battery tech is going to come from cars, or even phones and tablets.
Let them figure it out, then put it in a snowmobile. Making something so vastly inferior to a gas version does nothing but gives some good press to pretend you care about the environment.
As someone who is enjoying the fact that the high temp today is only reaching the mid-70s (yesterday it hit 90, and was still 5 degrees from a record high), what are those black plastic, disembodied arms near the rear of the seat?
I like the idea of quieter snowmobiles, but those range figures seem awfully limiting. The trail nearest to me is 27 miles round trip, which doesn’t leave you a whole lot of wiggle room. Hope you never exceeded 25 mph and cost yourself some range. Or hit any deep snow. Or really cold temperatures. Or…you get the idea.
On a semi-related note, I feel like snowmobiling is something of a dying sport even here in our version of Canada, Minnesota. In the southern part of the state we often don’t have enough snow for the trails to be rideable, which makes it hard to justify the expense of a machine unless you’re taking trips up north. And even up north where the snow is plentiful, I hear a lot of the trail maintainers are getting too old to do it and no one has stepped up to take over from them. I’ve seen a few discussions begging new people to help out this year.
I should note that I don’t snowmobile myself so this is all my impressions based on third-hand information, but some of it I’ve heard from friends who do or used to snowmobile so I don’t think I’m completely out in left field here.
An unofficial snowmobile trail went through some of the fields at my parents’ farm. I remember seeing folks pretty regularly as a kid. Most of them didn’t cause a problem but every now and then somebody would take a detour to the cow pastures (ignoring signs) and catch a ski on the electric fence wire, damaging both the sled and the fence.
Over the past few years though, the number of sleds has really declined. Less snow days and fewer young riders. I wouldn’t ever buy one just because of how little it would get used.
I can see these as a great work-horse for ski resorts. Rarely do they run for more than a few miles, and almost always get parked next to some serious power sources (lift terminals, maintenance shops, pump houses, lodges, even snow guns). Weight seems close to a wide-track Skandic 600 and I’d imagine plenty of torque to pull a few small snow guns, hoses, or sleds around.
For context, I have a 2010 Polaris 600 that I ride in one of the bigger clubs in western Maine. It gets about 15 mpg and I can go almost 100 miles before I start looking around for gas. A longer weekend day of riding is in the 100-150 mile range for me. On the nice wide ITS trails, you can plug along at 45-50 mph in sections, and I’d say an overall average is ~20 mph.
Would I love to not smell like 2-stroke at the end of a day of riding? You bet. Does the noise get old? Definitely. For the time being though, I think Ski-Doo has correctly identified that the market for this is limited.
Honestly I think the best snowmobiles are the old ones which are lightweight with massive tracks allowing for very low ground pressure.
I’ve seen modern snowmobiles at a 45 degree angle relative to the ground swimming through chest deep powder. I’d much rather have a slow lightweight one that just floats on top of the powder instead of swimming through it
This is why I started loving old yamaha phazers and started building them the past few years. In addition to the benefit you just mentioned, their low weight means body english affects the ride a LOT, you get more input. I have newer sleds (2015 Arctic Cats) and they’re incredible for long rides on trails, but off trail, in the woods, just goofing around? The old phazers are a revelation.
And what problem is this supposed to solve?
Emissions? What percentage is snowmobile emissions of total transportation emissions? I’d be surprised if it’s more than a fraction of one percent.
Noise? Modern 4-stroke touring sleds aren’t too noisy.
Speed? Nope, slow. Range? Nope, way too short. Maintenance? I’m sure the batteries just love cold and sitting un-charged for months.
Seems like electrification just for the sake of electrification.
“What percentage is snowmobile emissions of total transportation emissions?”
Well, in some parts of Canada, it’s 100%, sometimes.
And the UP!
It may not be a large problem compared to cars/trucks, but cleaner and quieter has been an initiative in the snowmobile arena for some time – especially in environmentally sensitive areas like Yellowstone, for example.
Here’s a link to the history of one of SAE’s college design challenge programs specific to snowmobiles. This approximately coincides with the time when manufacturers started offering more four-stroke engines as an alternative to two-strokes.
Gotta get involved here, w the yellow stone comment. They are SO ANAL about sleds ‘disturbing wildlife’… yet… when the snow melts, cmon in! Drive your 4 MILLION vehicle through it and walk up to the buffalo to get selfies! Go camping and hiking! Start wildfires! The hypocrisy is obnoxious. They seem to have no issue with all the gasoline powered cars that cause a lot of noise/impact going through most of the year, yet hate snowmobiles.
It is a LOT easier to take a snowmobile off a marked trail into sensitive wilderness than to take a car off the very limited road network.
Snowmobiles ride on top of snow, and do not cause any harm to the wilderness. I can back this up with many scientific studies done by multiple universities that show this, and I even did a video on it:
“gasoline powered cars that cause a lot of noise/impact”
Do they though? Cars have to stay on the marked roads so there’s a limit to the geographical impact they can have, and in my experience cars are drastically quieter than any small-engined outdoor power equipment. When I snowshoe or fat bike in the winter I can hear snowmobiles if they’re being operated anywhere within a 10 mile radius of where I am. The same is not true of most cars (emphasis on the “most”). It would not surprise me at all if snowmobiles, ATVs, and dirt bikes had a highly disproportionate impact on wildlife compared to cars.
Agreed. I can hear the snowmobiles from miles away from inside my running jeep wrangler in northern Minnesota.
Again, FOUR MILLION cars per year… vs…. how many sleds? That ride ON TOP of the snow and don’t damage anything, and exert only around .5lb/in^2, compared to 10x that for someone walking (5lbs/in^2)?
The big issue for me are the aftermarket cans, they’re SO LOUD, for absolutely minimal HP gains. They should really just send rangers out there with a decibel meter and ticket people running aftermarket exhausts….
But really… even if you do hear them, is it really worth all this? I hear prop driven airplanes ALL THE TIME in the summer, and the interrupt my video recording when I’m outside. Should we ban those? How about motorcycles? Those are usually pretty noisy, and go through national parks all the time. Ban those too?
Get out of here. # of sleds in is miniscule compared to bikes/cars, and there is no impact compared to 4 million people wandering around feeding wildlife and trampling over vegetation.
Now imagine trying to charge one in the northwoods…. it’d be impossible.
There’s no way this unit could tackle any powder or deep snow for long…. This electrification is getting out of fucking hand.
The range on those is abysmal, this is Grand Touring without the ability to tour.
I really know nothing about snowmobiles, but I imagine this is just the start. But to my head, a tour would absolutely love these, because heck, it’s much easier to sneak up on nature if you are more quiet. Also hunters might like these, except that range estimate is tiny for them.
They should come with a “self immolation” button so you can keep yourself warm for awhile when the battery inevitably runs dead in the back country.
Hence the focus on tour operations.
The number one reason we keep losing dirt bike and snowmobile trails in the US (and particularly the northeast) is noise complaints.
E-bikes and E-snowmobiles are going to be huge for recreational users, especially here in the northeast.
Yeah but given trails no traffic lights, no stop signs I expect fatalities and accidents to sky rocket. Not to mention theft because quiet get away.
The smaller the vehicle, the harder it is to hide the low energy density of batteries. Off road vehicles like snowmobiles and SxS don’t have or need car-like ranges, but when 50-100 miles fits into a small, transportable, gas can, it’s tough to compete.
Honestly, these products will probably need a major battery chemistry breakthrough before they can be competitive.
Talk about need for hybrids. Here you go.
Small engines aren’t going to destroy the environment. Sure, folks will say ‘lawnmowers pollute more than cars’. Throw a catalytic converter on it, and pollution drops by 90% or more. We need to focus on the bigger polluters before going after the small fry.
Or just don’t have grass lawns because lawns suck (sports fields notwithstanding).