Why EVs could make for better off-road vehicles

Improved range and an ever-expanding network of charging stations have pushed back the frontiers for your electric vehicle. With off-roading now more popular than ever, Roger Wallgren, Head of Vehicle Dynamics, explains why Polestar 3 is a great companion for exploring the roads less travelled.

In recent years, overlanding and off-roading have built up a considerable following. The idea of being able to pack a weekend's worth of gear into the back of your car, point it up a mountain, and find a quiet oasis of sanity in the wilds is unsurprisingly appealing. Currently, the overlanding scene is a mostly combustion affair, but that tide will change as more electric off-roaders become available. Your own slice of paradise away from the hustle and bustle of the city is one thing, but getting there without firing emissions from your ride — sounds a little bit better, doesn't it? 

But how long will it be before you can silently take a Polestar to your own secluded spot and while away a weekend? Well, speaking to Roger Wallgren, Polestar's Head of Vehicle Dynamics, it's not outside the realms of possibility with the upcoming Polestar 3. "It [the Polestar 3] wasn't intended for off-road use more than any other SUV on the market. But it does lend itself to it," says Wallgren. From the outset, you can see where it might do well: it's got good ground clearance, power is sent to each wheel individually, it's spacious, and there's plenty of torque on offer. So, while not a specialised vehicle, it's playing a good hand. 

For anything off-road, suspension is a good starting point
Roger Wallgren, Head of Vehicle Dynamics at Polestar
Built for all occasions

With a starting ground clearance of 200mm, Polestar 3 would do just fine off-road, but its approach angles (the steepness of a slope a car can go up without damaging the front end) might not be 100 percent perfect. Wallgren has a solution for that: "If you want to get the best out of the suspension, raise it to its full 250mm ground clearance, as the approach angles become much steeper. For anything off-road, suspension is a good starting point. Sure, all SUVs have high suspension, some even use air suspension like the Polestar 3, but not all have an extra 50mm to play with." 

EVs have an extra trick up their sleeves, and that's a low centre of gravity. When tackling rough terrain, having good ground clearance means you can get over anything the world throws at you, but keeping the vehicle's weight as low as possible means it'll have more stable footing. If all a car's weight was high up, say, for example, at shoulder level, it would be inherently unstable. Turning, accelerating, braking, and, well, anything would cause the car to lean over and maybe even topple. Putting weight down and lowering its centre of gravity lessens this effect. Wallgren explains: "A low centre of gravity is a factor, and the Polestar 3 has a similar centre of gravity to a Polestar One thanks to that heavy battery sitting as low as it can. When you're on a hill or driving sideways at an angle, the risk of tipping over is very low. It's like you're sitting in a sports car. That's essentially what you have here."

Polestar 3’s computer-controlled torque vectoring system constantly monitors for wheelspin and actively redistributes power to the wheel with more grip. This results in faster acceleration, higher cornering speeds and better traction on slippery surfaces.
Unique torque delivery

Tall, but with a low centre of gravity. So far, so good. But what about power? It's well known that Polestar cars come with something of a kick, but it's how its power and, more crucially, torque is delivered that'll really help with off-roading. Wallgren continues: "On that front is the huge wheel torque that's always available. With one pedal drive, you have smooth, controllable torque at your fingertips at all times. There's little to no drama requesting the torque to move the vehicle forward, and you get smooth control. The accuracy and precision of requesting wheel torque is at a different level in EVs."

Having complete control over how much torque you deliver is clearly beneficial, but more important is where it actually ends up. Polestar 3 comes with technology to ensure power only goes to where it needs to go. Many internal combustion engine cars have hardware to help the same process. Often, differentials (a fancy bit of engineering) allow wheels on the same axle to spin at different rates to help things like cornering and off-roading. But it's not as precise as it could be. Where others may end up spinning wheels and putting power in the wrong place, the Polestar 3 simply won't. Wallgren elaborates: "What we've done is replaced a differential with a clutch on each side that gives you the opportunity to control the torque individually for each wheel, so the tyre doesn't slip in the first place. You can compare it to the limited-slip differential, electronically controlled or otherwise, but this is one step up from that. It's about finding the best available traction on each side." 

With these systems in place on Polestar 3, the car knows instantly when a wheel has low or even no grip. With that knowledge, it won't spin them aimlessly, but it will put torque, and the right amount of torque, in the right place to get you going in the correct direction. 

The attributes that make it a Polestar help its off-road capability. A low centre of gravity makes for superb handling, being able to put power where you need it at any given point makes for exciting performance, and adjustable suspension can aid efficiency. All of this helps if the going gets a little rough. Wallgren was keen to point out that while the car can do a lot more than you might think, it's not a tried-and-tested off-roader. Yet. 

With a Polestar 3 on hand, you'll be able to go further than you think, and you'll be able to do so quietly and quickly — and safe in the knowledge that the car very much has your back. 

You can order yours today.

Words by: Alex Goy


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