Calmness and quietness permeate the crisp air surrounding Vermont's Smugglers' Notch ski resort in the winter. Situated at the base of three interconnected mountains, the scenic resort village is where Taiga, a Canadian company specializing in all-electric recreational vehicles, recently brought us to sample one of its new snowmobiles.
At first blush, the black and white machine looks like any other gas-fed sled built by the usual players such as Polaris and Ski-Doo. But when you turn on Taiga's fully electric snowmobile, there's absolute silence instead of the pitter-patter that traditional two-stroke engines produce. Our initial impression was that the lack of drama will appeal to first-time riders and people who prefer nature's tranquillity over the traditional ruckus. However, for avid riders and anyone who's grown up around snowmobiles—like this author—the missing smells and sounds might detract from the riding experience. It's the same disconnect we feel when we hear a Porsche Taycan's whirring electric motors, as opposed to a 911 GT3's soulful naturally aspirated flat-six.
Dubbed the Nomad, the utility workhorse model we rode features a 90-hp permanent-magnet electric motor fed by the standard lithium-ion battery pack with a gross rating of 23.0 kilowatt-hours (Taiga would not tell us the usable capacity) under the seat. Taiga claims this setup provides 62 miles of range per charge. A 120-hp electric motor and a larger battery good for 83 miles of range are part of a $2000 performance package. Taiga says these range figures are based on efficient battery temperatures, which are maintained between 68 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit with a liquid-cooled thermal management system. However, expect actual range to vary based on individual riding style and conditions. While Taiga asserts that most snowmobilers ride less than 100 miles a day, our experience is that many do that before lunch. Either way, we think it'll be tough to convince the masses that 62 or 83 miles of range are enough, especially considering you have a better chance of seeing a sasquatch than a trailside charging station.
Taiga plans to change that by building a network with thousands of charging stations in off-road locations across Canada and the U.S. as early as 2025. However, the map on its website currently shows only targeted locations, not specific addresses, so we'll have to wait to see how that plays out.
Before taking the Nomad out for a rip, we were introduced to the basic controls. The brake lever on the left side of the handlebars and the throttle (read: accelerator) lever and the bright-red kill switch on the right look typical. Less familiar are toggle switches on the left side for the regenerative-braking system, which blends with a conventional disc brake, and a switch for Range and Sport drive modes. Between the windshield and handlebars is a 7.0-inch digital display showing speed, kilowatt usage, and range. All that's missing is locations of the nearest charging stations.
Connect the magnetized tether that doubles as a key and push the green start button—the electric snowmobile is activated without a sound. While the silence is peaceful, some sort of buzz or hum might improve safety, in the way that electric cars make subtle noise to alert pedestrians. We're told that's being considered.
We started in Range mode with the lowest regen setting. Squeezing the accelerator prompted immediate thrust, eliciting the same sensation of instantaneous torque that defines electric vehicles. In Sport mode, the Nomad becomes exhilaratingly quick yet remains easy to control. Taiga claims that the Nomad's motor can deliver a top speed of 60 mph. The result is a quietly quick machine that eventually hits a wall of speed, which curbed our enthusiasm. We did enjoy the regenerative braking, especially when descending steep terrain in the highest regen setting and barely using the hand brake.
Eventually, it comes time to recharge. Every Taiga snowmobile features a 6.6-kW onboard charger with a J1772 port compatible with any charger that works with regular electric vehicles such as, say, a Ford Mustang Mach-E. Sorry, Tesla fans, it doesn't work with Superchargers. Taiga says fully replenishing the standard battery with Level 2 charging takes about four hours. With the Level 3 onboard charger and rates between 30 and 40 kilowatts, charging the battery from zero to 80 percent is said to take about 30 minutes. Still, good luck finding a DC fast-charger out on a frozen lake, on the mountainside, or even at a bar off the trailhead. In a pinch, the Nomad can be plugged into a standard 120-volt outlet, but a full recharge there requires 13 to 14 hours—which means an overnight charge back at the cabin is possible, though just barely.
In the meantime, we think Taiga's electric snowmobiles can find success in rental fleets, where use (and thus charging) occurs on more of a fixed cycle, and in national parks, where emissions and noise are tightly regulated. The company says it has at least 130 multiunit orders from commercial operators around the globe. For now, that audience could be Taiga's main market, representing a solid opportunity for regular people to be exposed to electric snowmobiles without the financial commitment.
The Nomad we rode featured a two-seat configuration and was equipped with 154.0-inch track. It also had the optional Level 3 onboard charger, which is currently included in its $17,490 starting price, and was fitted with the $2000 performance suspension, which includes upgraded Elka dampers, bringing the total to $19,490. Online reservations are currently $500, and the company says it's prioritizing orders on a first-come basis, with deliveries expected to start around the end of this year. Taiga will also offer models geared toward on-trail performance and mountain-riding segments. Whether the snowmobiling community is ready to accept Taiga's first fully electric snowmobiles remains to be seen, but they're a start toward the inevitable electrification of recreational vehicles.