The electric motor has existed for decades and has only recently been used in commercial vehicles available to the public. Electric cars and other passenger vehicles get most of the attention, but the electric snowmobile is another exciting possibility of this emerging trend.
I’m Chaz, a lifelong snowmobile enthusiast. I’ve been riding since I was a kid and have nearly 30 years of experience with these machines. Performance and capabilities have changed quite a bit over the years, and electric sleds could be the wave of the future.
Currently, there are a few different electric snowmobiles on the market. I haven’t had the chance to ride on one yet (though I hope to soon!), but I’ve kept myself up to date on the progress and performance attributes alongside some industry rumors surrounding their development.
In this post, I’ll share with you everything I know about electric snowmobiles. We live in an era where things evolve quickly, and electric vehicles are a sector that is developing at seemingly warp speeds.
Charge up your batteries, and let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
- The First Electric Snowmobile
- Electric Snowmobile Market Overview
- Electric Snowmobile: Pros and Cons
- Electric Snowmobiles vs. Traditional Snowmobiles
- Should You Buy Electric Snowmobiles Now?
- Are Electric Snowmobiles the Future?
- Final Thoughts
The First Electric Snowmobile
The Taiga TS2 is the first electric snowmobile to see widespread production and be readily available to the public. Taiga is a start-up based out of Montreal, Canada, and has led the charge of electric snowmobile development over the last few years.
The company started in 2015 and was heavily influenced by Tesla in its research and development approach. The TS2 came into existence around 2018, with the first test models shown to industry insiders and the press.
You can’t currently purchase the TS2, but Taiga now has a few different electric snowmobiles available for pre-order. You can’t bring one home from the dealer just yet, but you can pre-order for delivery at a later date.
The TS2 looks like a modern version of a traditional sled on the outside. It also comes in at a similar weight of under 500 pounds. The most significant difference is the power source and drive train, which is battery powered.
With a permanent magnet AC (PMAC) powering the sled, it can generate an impressive 250 N.m of torque and has a power output of about 80kW. A 15 kWh battery pack powers the motor, which is rechargeable and of decent size with current technologies in mind.
This power, combined with its relatively light weight, gives the TS2 blazing acceleration and top speeds. Taiga claims the TS2 could go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, which is faster than any gas-powered option that I’m aware of.
That’s some serious giddy-up on the trail and should make any snowmobiler with experience pretty excited about the possibility of riding the throttle on one of these machines.
There have been other prototypes and attempts at making electric snowmobiles before the release of the TS2. Still, reliable information on these is difficult to find, and I couldn’t say with authority that a fully functional electric sled was ridden before the Taiga electric option.
Electric Snowmobile Market Overview
Electric snowmobiles are starting to generate quite a bit of buzz, but they still aren’t readily available. Taiga is still the only company that has made production sleds available, and although there is excitement, the market is still small and limited.
Taiga has three different models currently available for pre-order that represent an evolution from the initial TS concepts. These are all scheduled for official release in the fall of 2021. Fingers crossed that they can hit this date, and we can see electric sleds on the trail next winter.
The Ekko is a mountain-style sled made for backcountry-type riding. The Atlas is a crossover/all-terrain version that can go just about anywhere. The Nomad is a utility/touring option that will get the job done for the long haul.
These sleds from Taiga are on the upper end of price but are in the ballpark of what other high-end options cost. That bodes well for the developing market as these electric sleds are priced to match currently available machines.
|Price (USD)||Starting at $15,000||Starting at $15,000||Starting at $15,000|
|Power||137″ track, 2.9s 0-100km/h||154″ or 165″ track, up to 180hp||Up to 510kg / 1,124lbs towing and 120hp|
Other than these three options, there aren’t many other electric snowmobiles available on the current market. It’s a young market without much of a history, and many more prominent brands have yet to see the market potential or view this sector as a risk.
While that may seem odd, I believe that the major manufacturers will soon develop and release electric sleds. There’s a good chance they already have some models in development and have yet to tell the press or public.
From the rumors I’ve heard and through the research I’ve conducted in the industry, I would expect many more electric snowmobiles to become available within the next five years.
There are still some hurdles to overcome, including infrastructure and range. These factors limit the appeal of current electric snowmobiles compared to traditional options – which I’ll dissect further in the sections below.
Electric Snowmobile: Pros and Cons
Electric snowmobiles, and electric motors of all kinds, have some advantages over gas-powered engines. They also have some glaring disadvantages. Electric snowmobile design and development are still young, and some ups and downs come with this.
One of the most significant advantages of electric snowmobiles is that they don’t have any emissions because they aren’t burning fuel for power. 2-stroke engines are notoriously bad for the environment and a major downside for any eco-conscious rider (source).
Electric sleds are hyped as not causing any pollution. This is true while operating the machine, but the battery manufacturing process does come with environmental concerns.
Electric motors may be better for the environment overall, but they are not entirely immune from an ecological perspective.
Electric snowmobiles are also much quieter than their predecessors. If you’ve driven an electric car or ridden in one, the effect is similar. An electric snowmobile is virtually silent on the trail, which makes for a fantastic experience, I’m sure.
Speed is another great upside to an electric snowmobile. If you love to ride fast, you are going to love riding on an electric snowmobile. The claim of 0 to 60 in 3 seconds of the TS2 and other Taiga models is any indicator, we are all in for a wild ride with electric machines.
Electric motors also need less maintenance than gas-powered alternatives. There simply aren’t as many moving parts, and you can expect maintenance costs to be lower over the machine’s lifetime.
As incredible as electric snowmobiles seem on paper, they still have several downsides to consider before your trade your old one in for a battery-powered option.
The biggest downside, in my opinion, and that of plenty of other riders is the limited range of a battery charge. You can only ride for as far or as long as you have battery power. When you run out of a charge, you can’t fill up the tank and keep going.
Currently, the range of an electric snowmobile is around 80-110 miles. While that’s enough for a good day on the trails, it doesn’t get the job done in touring situations or give me the confidence to safe in the backcountry.
It takes a long time for a drained battery to charge back up to full capacity on top of the range considerations. When a traditional snowmobile runs out of gas, you can fill it back up in minutes. A full recharge is going to take hours, at best.
Another downside is that because electric snowmobiles aren’t common, there isn’t much known about common problems, longevity, and other issues that you might experience if you own one.
While I’m sure there will soon be mechanics that specialize in electric sled repair, real knowledge and experience with these machines is limited for the time being – simply because they haven’t existed for that long.
You might save some money over the life of your sled because repairs won’t need to happen as frequently. But if you encounter some major mechanical problem, it could be a headache to get it fixed quickly.
Electric Snowmobiles vs. Traditional Snowmobiles
Let’s now take a quick look at some of the differences between electric and traditional snowmobiles. This isn’t meant to convince you one way or another, just to provide you with information so you can compare and contrast the two.
|Electric Sleds||Traditional Sleds|
|Speed/Acceleration||Amazing acceleration and impressive top speeds||Less acceleration than electric. High-performance options can vary|
|Emissions||None||2-stroke engines put out environmentally damaging emission|
|Cost||Expensive purchase price, lower lifetime maintenance costs||Purchase price varies. Maintenance costs expected.|
|Maintenance||Less regular upkeep but skilled mechanics are not yet abundant||Regular maintenance expected and readily available|
|Range||Currently limited to around 200 miles/150km. Long recharge times.||Depends on the gas tank capacity but generally further than electric. Easier to fill up.|
Should You Buy Electric Snowmobiles Now?
I am personally excited to ride an electric snowmobile. If I had extra money lying around and were shopping for a new machine, I would certainly consider buying a Taiga when they are available later in 2021.
But while it’s easy to get excited about a new toy, you should also consider the downside to the current machines available. The consumer is currently limited to the three electric sleds Taiga has on pre-order with a lack of other options or competition.
With that in mind, alongside thinking about a lack of infrastructure, skilled mechanics, and maintenance issues that are sure to appear, I think it’s probably a better idea to wait a few years before making a purchase.
I anticipate more options in the next few years as more major manufacturers begin releasing production electric snowmobiles. The technologies and capabilities of these options will grow along with supply and demand as well.
On the other hand, If you have the money and the ability to ride near your house to recharge the batteries quickly, I would say go for it. These early electric sleds might become collector items as well, making them a good investment.
Another alluring aspect of the electric sled is the speed factor. I know plenty of riders who would dish out the cash to feel that acceleration and power on the snow. If that sounds like you, maybe it is time to buy.
Are Electric Snowmobiles the Future?
I’m not a fortune teller, but I do think that electric snowmobiles are the future. I don’t believe that they will take over entirely and expect traditional machines to be around for decades to come – so long as there is still enough gasoline to power them.
As more options arise, the design and development of electric sleds will grow. The biggest limiting factor for electric snowmobiles, in my eyes right now, is a low range. As battery technologies improve, I think electric options will become extremely popular.
Infrastructure is another crucial component to the future of electric snowmobiles. Popular snowmobiling areas that currently offer gas stations and repair shops will need to adapt to provide charging stations and electric motor repair services.
While those infrastructure concerns are certainly a limiting factor today, I bet they decrease with more electric snowmobiles on the snow. I wouldn’t get rid of your gas-powered sled just yet, but I would start saving for an electric machine sometime in the next few years.
If the past is any indicator, changes in established trends can take time to develop but snowball (pun intended) when they gain enough traction.
Looking back at this article in 10 years, we might be thinking about the history of traditional snowmobiles rather than the future of electric ones.
Here are a few commonly asked questions regarding electric snowmobiles.
Is an electric snowmobile safe?
Any moving vehicle has inherent risks involved when in operation. The increased acceleration and speed do make them slightly riskier, but you should always ride safely no matter what type of machine you are on.
How much does an electric snowmobile cost?
The Taiga electric snowmobiles currently on pre-order are available for around $15,000 or less, depending on features and delivery. While this is pretty expensive for a snowmobile, it’s not that much more than other high-end gas-powered options.
What companies make electric snowmobiles?
Currently, Taiga is the only company that makes a production snowmobile that is available for sale. Even these are not yet available and are expected to hit the trails in the fall of 2021. I would expect other major manufacturers to produce options in the next five years.
How long does it take for an electric snowmobile to be fully charged?
Charging times depend on what level of charging capability you have on the snowmobile. Basic charging with a standard DC outlet (level 1) can take as long as 14 hours. According to Taiga, level 2 charging will take around 3 hours and level 3 as short as 30 minutes.
How far can an electric snowmobile go on one charge?
The current range of electric snowmobiles on a single charge is relatively limited. You can expect 130-150 km (80-110 miles) with current batteries. This should increase as battery technology progresses.
Should I wear different gear on an electric snowmobile?
No, you don’t need to wear anything different on an electric snowmobile. The basic riding process is the same, so always wear a helmet and match your cold-weather gear with the conditions you are riding in.
I’m excited about the potential that electric snowmobiles bring to the sport. These machines are new and not yet readily available, but they provide plenty of intrigue for anyone who loves to get on the snow and experiment with new sleds and technologies.
I’ll be curious to see how the Taiga rollout goes later on in 2021 and think that some other brands will offer options shortly after. It’s hard to say for sure, but that’s my best guess.
I’ll update this article as news and research continue, but let me know if you hear of anything regarding electric snowmobiles in the meantime.About Chaz Wyland