By: IOL Motoring Staff
Hannover, Germany - Search and rescue vehicles have always been a niche within a niche in the 4x4 spectrum; not only do they have to be able to cross the wildest terrain, which is, after all, where people usually need to be rescued, but they have to carry all sorts of specialised equipment.
And a lot of that equipment is electrical, which is in itself a problem when you're out in the wild blue yonder, a long, long way from the nearest 220V outlet.
Which is where the Nissan Navara Enguard concept - on display now at the Hannover commercial motor show - comes in.
It's based on the new double-cab Nissan Navara 4x4 bakkie, current in Europe and overdue for launch in South Africa - but all we can get out of Nissan SA is "An announcement will be made in due course".
The concept has been engineered to operate as a life-saving rescue platform, carrying equipment for emergency and disaster recovery work in the harshest environments, including a remote-camera DJI Phantom 4 drone, so rescue crews can look before they leap into a potentially dangerous situation.
It weighs only 1380 grams but has an operating ceiling of 6000 metres and can fly at up to 20 metres per second for almost half an hour, relaying live-streaming images from its gimbal-mounted 12.4 megapixel camera to a high-definition screen that pops up from the wall of the Navara's load bed.
But more important are the two new portable power-packs, designed and built for this purpose using battery technology developed for electric vehicles such as the Leaf and e-NV200. They can provide power for emergency lighting, or power tools such as the jaws of life and heavy-duty lift winches.
Unlike a petrol generator they're silent, so rescue personnel can communicate easily with each other or hear faint calls from survivors and, with zero emissions and no flammable fuel, they can be used inside buildings and caves.
Each contains seven battery modules inside a weatherproof casing machined from solid aluminium, and is rated at 2kW. Each casing has recessed ends, to make it easier to carry, as well as two charging sockets - one for 220V AC and one for solar charging - two 220V AC outlets and three USB ports.
When docked on the Navara they're permanently 'on charge' from its 140kW, 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel, so they're always ready to go, and there are more power sockets built into each side of the load bed.
The standard Navara ladder chassis has been upgraded with a special, fully adjustable performance suspension system that raises ride height by 50mm, with nylon bushes rather than rubber mountings to make it tougher and more stable.
Front and rear track have been increased by 80mm and 94mm respectively - to 1620mm at each end - and the standard 18 inch alloy rims have been replaced with 16 inch hoops wearing 285/75 off-road tyres, over upgraded four-cylinder drilled and vented 300mm disc brakes all round.
Specially-made overfenders have been fitted to the front and rear wheel arches, linked by new moulded side steps, each with a rubber strip on the top for improved grip, and there's a snorkel on the driver's side A pillar for wading through rivers.
The tailgate now has a new moulded liner and high-level brake-light, which was moved from the top of the passenger when the roofline was raised by 136mm to accommodate a powerful 360 degree LED lighting rig, with emergency blue strobe lights on the four corners.
Inside the load bed are two double-skinned fibreglass pull-out trays; the shallow upper tray is the full width of the load bed, for smaller items such as two-way radios, torches, fire extinguisher, ropes and climbing gear, a shovel and an axe.
The lower tray is deeper and narrower, for larger items such as the oxygen tank and resuscitation kit, life jackets and buoyancy aids, and on either side of it is a docking bay for one of the power packs.