08 Sep 23 Fering scoops defence contract to develop military-spec Pioneer
- Electrified utility vehicle start-up Fering wins contract to supply military versions of its Pioneer
- The Pioneer is ideal for tactical and reconnaissance duties due to its lightweight, modular platform and ease of transportation
- Micro-grid capabilities and silent running open up new operational opportunities
Electrified all-terrain vehicle start-up Fering has secured a contract to develop and supply a military version of its innovative Pioneer 4×4.
The British company will build and supply special prototypes for evaluation ahead of full production, working closely with a specialist tactical unit. These will be built alongside civilian versions of the vehicle.
In addition to the unique flexibility offered by the Pioneer’s innovative design, defence buyers are especially interested in the opportunities to create ‘micro grids’ in remote locations using the Fering’s electrified powertrains.
The Pioneer is the brainchild of ex-Ferrari and McLaren engineer Ben Scott-Geddes, who has repurposed supercar and racing technology to create an off-road vehicle which is light, easily transportable, and unusually efficient.
It uses an ultra-lightweight architecture incorporating what is believed to be the world’s first carbon-fibre utility chassis. Mated to aluminium structures, the carbon chassis provides excellent resistance to corrosion and structural fatigue, extending the vehicle’s service life compared to conventional alternatives.
Besides the low weight, its supercar-inspired engineering means the Pioneer offers class-leading interior space for improved occupant comfort and equipment storage, but the exterior dimensions mean it can be easily transported by air. This is especially attractive to the defence sector, where quick deployment times to inaccessible areas are vital.
Once in ‘theatre’, the Pioneer is uniquely capable in harsh terrain, has a high payload and is able to survive ‘off grid’ for thousands of miles without needing refuelling supplies thanks to its high efficiency and large fuel and battery capacities.
Ben Scott-Geddes said: “Our original design brief of creating the ultimate sustainable all-terrain vehicle has inevitably attracted the attention of the military. We developed the Pioneer to be sustainable in terms of its carbon footprint, making it efficient, compact and light in weight, and these are all qualities which are also prized by the defence industry.
“We have received funding to create military prototypes which will be assessed in the field. We are working closely with a specialist unit to ensure these vehicles meet and exceed their operational requirements.”
The Fering’s modular design structure allows it to be quickly and easily customised for specific mission requirements, with simple integration of specialist systems and powertrains, and multiple body configurations of single-cab, double-cab and more.
For example, all Pioneers are capable of silent and low-heat operation which can give a tactical advantage in combat situations. The hybrid version has four battery boxes that are easily accessible and can be dismounted from within the cabin, enabling them to provide quick battery swaps and localised, off-grid power supplies. This ability to ‘offboard’ power also allows the Pioneer to act as a forward operating base to support equipment required for extended operations.
While stationary, a Pioneer’s generator engine can supply up to 42kW for 60 hours without refuelling. It can also provide 30kW while mobile, supplying charge to devices and smaller vehicles such as electric motorbikes and drones.
The Pioneer’s outer body materials are also easily interchangeable to suit mission requirements. These include Fering’s innovative technical fabric, which offers excellent noise and thermal insulation qualities and can carry its own Kevlar light ballistic protection. The Pioneer can also include solid panel body work with optional additional armoured solutions.
The Pioneer’s fully adjustable independent suspension with an onboard tyre inflation system provides impressive handling characteristics and optimum off-road capabilities, even when heavily laden.
Pilot production of the Pioneer has already begun at Fering’s new factory and headquarters in Battersea, London.
Despite its imposing appearance, Fering’s Pioneer is no larger in any direction than a typical delivery van and is around the same length as a BMW 3-Series. It also weighs the same as a family hatchback and almost half the figures for some electric and hybrid 4x4s, with a kerb weight of 1,650kg.
Power to the axles is provided solely by two electric motors – unusual for an off-road vehicle. But they are perfectly suited to the task, providing instant torque, controllability, and reliability. They provide a total of 800Nm of torque; far more than a comparable diesel 4×4.
A battery provides a zero local emission, electric-only range of around 50 miles. The Pioneer’s range extender generator is then available. Unlike conventional electric vehicles, the powerpacks are designed to survive in extreme temperatures.
Customers will be able to specify their vehicles to be configured with different combinations of battery pack and range extender fuel to cater for local conditions and operational needs.
The Pioneer’s unique and distinctive appearance is partly due to the use of fabric for many of the body panels. This special material is similar to that used in hiking boots and marine sails, making it light in weight, strong and easy to repair. It also has far better insulation properties – for both noise and heat – than traditional metal or composite.
The next stage of Fering’s development will see the Pioneer going into low volume production in early 2024, followed by larger scale batch production in 2025.