Vertical Climbing Vehicles

Can you get a car to climb a vertical face, well yes! It’s not easy, especially when you’re dealing with crumbling textures and falling rock. You’re not exactly going against physics but you’re going damned close.

Speed alone won’t get you up a vertical surface. It is important that the surface you’re climbing is completely dry. You also need to give your vehicle a thorough inspection prior to attempting the climb. There are significant pressures placed on a vehicle when it attempts to make such a climb. Additionally, you want to be sure that everything in and on the vehicle is secured, the vehicle may be able to maintain a tenuous grasp when going vertical, but the stuff in your cup holder probably won’t.

Speed isn’t the answer to the problem of a vertical climb, it’s power. Welcome to the world of rock crawler buggies where tires need to be especially low and the center of gravity for the bodywork must be low as well. The engine cannot be close to the tires so typically it requires an electronic drive.

The tires must have a strong grip in them but there’s difficulty here too. Under normal circumstances, gravity is pushing down on the car and the tires – we’re moving into aerodynamics again here by the way – but now we can’t use gravity. So how does the vehicle get grip?

The solution is a paddled tire using the vertical force itself to grip it to the wall. With the center of gravity at the front of the vehicle and also as near to the cliff as possible it ensures the car is kept as stable as possible. Were this not the case the car would flip back and fall off the cliff. The best length of car, when you calculate it, is about 11.5ft (3.5m).

Another variable is weight. The engines need to be kept as light as possible. This goes against conventional thinking associated with off-roaders. One might think of a vehicle like an SUV or Land Rover, but these are no good for scaling heights.

A climber needs to be able to reach 60mph in 1.5 seconds and can only weigh up to about 575lbs (260Kg).

How does it reach the required angle? Before the car can travel up a 90-degree surface it must first climb a 70-degree surface, an impossible angle for most cars. For this reason, you need a strong stunt driver as it’s quite a scary angle and may involve some sliding backwards before reaching the cliff itself.

This is unfortunately just speculation as no car has yet been able to scale up a 90-degree cliff, even though a Jeep was reported climbing up the Sand Hollow State cliff in Utah. It doesn’t seem to hold that much water though. For one thing, a Jeep is too heavy a vehicle to confidently climb a vertical cliff. Secondly, the Jeep seems to be at a jaunty angle as if it’s not exactly climbing. Thirdly, the car is shown at the top of a cliff (perhaps winched down from the horizontal surface?) not halfway down where the aerodynamics could be seen at the fullest effect. Don’t believe all you read on social media!

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