Could Fabric Bodies Be the Future of Off-Road Trucks?
At first glance, this looks like some future off-road model covered in camouflage. Or something built in Russia in the 1940s. But this is the Pioneer off-road truck-designed by an ex-Ferrari engineer and to be built by Fering in the UK.
The Fering Pioneer could be the ultimate off-road truck
Never heard of Fering? Neither had we. It was started by Ben Scott-Geddes, an ex McLaren, Ferrari, and Caparo engineer. This, however, is his first foray into off-road vehicles. He wants this to be the ultimate in off-road adventure capability.
With its hybrid system and two electric motors, it can travel 4,350 miles before having to stop for gas. One electric motor for the front, and one for the back, helps to achieve that range. An 800cc three-cylinder biodiesel engine provides range extension. The truck can also be converted to run on other fuels like alcohol.
The Pioneer has a hybrid system using Lithium Titanate Oxide batteries
The electric engines do the majority of the Pioneer’s work. Mostly, the Lithium Titanate Oxide batteries only add an extra 50 miles of range. Never heard of LTO? These types of cells can handle extreme weather conditions, to aid in the Pioneer’s ability to work anywhere.
All of this gives the Pioneer 442 lb-ft of torque. But there’s more. The whole truck weighs just 3,306 lbs. An aluminum frame, composites, and fabric body have lightened the load substantially.
For comparison, the all-electric Hummer, arriving soon, weighs just shy of 10,000 lbs. A lot of the weight reduction is from the fabric body made from the material used to make hiking boots. This offers better insulation and is more compliant under extreme conditions.
If the Fering Pioneer body tears, it’s a lot cheaper to replace than stamped sheet metal
Obviously, it can deflect if struck by objects. And if it tears, replacement is far cheaper than fixing metal or fiberglass. There are plenty of examples of fabric-bodied cars to fall back on.
Weymann Fabric Bodies created a system of fabric bodies covering a wooden frame in the 1920s. These bodies used shaped metal for rounded corners, and straining wires to help prevent deformation. Muslin or chicken wire with some cotton batting was applied over the frame, and then that is covered in synthetic leather. Exposed joints got covered with aluminum moldings.
Some of the advantages back then included the elimination of squeaks and rattles like conventional metal panels attached to wood frames resulted in. Most all bodies at this point were stamped sheet metal nailed to a wooden frame. Fabric bodies were also generally quieter. But there were plenty of downsides.
How much protection does a fabric body provide?
The most obvious is that if involved in a serious crash, it offered little protection. And if not properly cared for the fabric would eventually rot or degrade. But we’re talking about the 1920s and 1930s. Things have improved in 100 years, right? Materials are a lot stronger today and can last much longer under extended periods of bad conditions over time.
Testing of the first prototype is happening right now. Production is expected to begin in 2022. We anxiously await test driving a Pioneer once they become available.