The plan sounds ambitious: with "Mission Antarctica", small series manufacturer Venturi planned the development of a purely electrically driven track drive vehicle in 2010. However, the major ambition to drive around the inlands of Antarctica with an electric tracked vehicle is yet to become reality. As such, the Venturi Antarctica, with its maximum speed of 40 km/h merely holds the status of a particularly noteworthy idea by which to transport oneself on tracks.
Vehicles with a track drive system are not generally known to be big sellers, aside from snow mobiles in the Northern Regions. However, in recent years a trend has been emerging, which has practically democratised the track drive as a drive system for deep snow and marsh land: retrofittable track drives that are installed in place of normal vehicle wheels. The 'drift-hipster' Ken Block recently made this type of chain drive popular, with even manufacturers such as Nissan (Nismo RSnow) now relying on the track-driven effect in order to generate as much of a stir as possible. The advantage of tracks over (even larger) tyres: the contact surface becomes much larger and the weight of the vehicle is distributed over a larger area, much like with a snow shoe. This means that neither deep snow nor marshy stretches are a problem for this type of tracked vehicleRetrofittable tracks
Manufacturers such as Mattracks or American Track Truck have specialised in offering retrofittable tracks for a diverse range of vehicles. Here the front axle of the tracked vehicle can still be steered. Rather than changing direction by means of brakes on either side, as is otherwise standard in tracked vehicles, vehicles equipped with these track drive systems can be operated the same way as normal. But as has almost always been the case throughout the history of the automobile, this, you might have guessed, is no new discovery. Back in the late 1950s, for example, similar drive systems were built by James A. Cuthbertson & Sons, in order to prepare Land Rover models for the Scottish moorlands. Retrofittable track systems are nowadays even available for motorcycles, transforming them into snow mobiles.
Hägglunds: the most popular tracked vehicle
Many other concepts aim to make it possible to remain mobile on deep snow or marshy terrain. Here the "Bandvagn" tracked vehicle from Swedish manufacturer BAE Systems Hägglunds plays a pioneering role, with four tracks providing the forward thrust. The unique concept consists of the motor vehicle, which houses the driver and passenger, and the articulated trailer that carries additional passengers or loads. While the BV 206 tracked vehicle could transport an effective load of up to two tonnes at up to 50 km/h, it successor, the BVS10, has been made even more powerful. Another unique feature of the tracked vehicle, which is known within the offroad scene simply as "the Häglund" is its ability to swim.
ATV and Side-by-Side with a track drive
The Mattracks principle is also put to use on vehicle class lower: ATV and Side-by-Side all-wheel-drive vehicles can also be retrofitted with these drive systems, transforming them into tracked vehicles - a business segment in which ATV specialists HP-ATV from the Bavarian town of Bad Kötzting are active. Their advantage is their much lower weight compared to a normal all-terrain vehicle, which also increases their sphere of action. In Alpine regions, ATVs with track drive systems now pose serious competition to traditional snow mobiles: and in contrast to these, they can also be used in the Summer, by simply fitting normal wheels.
As such, ATVs snd Side-by-Sides have now established themselves in the fields of mountain rescue or in Winter sports, delivering shelter or as cross country tracking vehicles. The fact that in addition to all of this, it is also exceptionally fun to drive the hefty tracked vehicles, certainly won't put any owners off.
In our photo gallery, we present some of the chain-driven concept vehicles driven in closer detail, in addition to the vehicles already described.