Yemelya Special Mobile Unit
Yemelya – is a special mobile unit designed for transportation over swamps, tundra, heavy offroad.
Yemelya is an amphibious vehicle designed for transportation over swamps, tundra, ocean
ice, sections of open water, and heavy offroad. Only four exist and have been hand-built
specifically for polar duty, by a team under Vasily Elagin, an expedition main member. Two
of the Yemelya have already been to the North and South Poles and two more have been
built extra for the expedition. Transglobal will use these for the extremely difficult and ever
first attempt stage from Cambridge Bay across the North Pole and down the length of

They are center-control, mid-engined six-wheel-drive vehicles on 51” tires that can run as
low as one pound-per-square-inch of air pressure, making less impact on the ground than a
human foot. Three people can comfortably live and work in the vehicle for weeks at a time.
Despite their large size, they weigh less than a family sedan thanks to extreme lightweight
construction on aircraft principles: for example the body is riveted of one millimeter-thick
aluminum alloy. They are designed with the exact external dimensions to fit inside a multi-
modal shipping container.
The name “Yemelya” is from a Russian traditional fairy tale of a very lazy man whose every
wish for an easier journey is granted.
    • 550
    Ground clearance, mm
    • 550
    Payload capacity, kg
    • 7 kPa
    Average ground pressure per unit of area under full load
    • 50 km⁄h
    Maximum driving speed
    • 90
    Fuel tank capacity, l
    • 2800 kg
    The total weight of the caravan at the start (incl. one trailer)
    • 0,05 - 0,2 kPa
    Tire pressure
    • 2-3
    Travel speed afloat due to the rotation of the wheels, km⁄h
Fast facts:
  • Number in existence: 4
  • Weight: less than 3600 pounds
  • Tire size: 1300mm x 600mm on rim 21”
  • Engine: 2.2L Toyota car turbodiesel engine
  • Gear multiplication ratio (lowest gear) 75:1
  • Sealed hull and ability to float
  • Lowest temperature of operation: - 55 degrees centigrade
  • Maximum drive speed: 50 km/h
  • Maximum water speed: 3 km/h (by tire rotation)
More characteristics:
Unladen mass: unladen/gross weight
1650/2300 kg
Trailers are single-axle with single-lever suspension, made with steel material. A PE-1000 polyethylene travois cargo sled with a capacity for four two-hundred-liter tin barrels can be included in addition to two or even three trailers in each caravan.
Number of towed trailers, empty trailer weight/payload:
2-3х200/800, the travois’s cargo sled weight is also 800 kg with its own weight being ~100 kg
2200,1400 mm
Wheel track
1950 mm
Dimension (LхWхH)
5350х2650х2850 mm
Vasily Elagin
The creator of Yemelya and the organizer of expeditions to the North Pole by cars, Vasily Elagin, grew up in a family of biologists. Since childhood, Elagin has been taking part in different expeditions, reading books about the travels of J.Verne and J.London, “The Guide of the Traveler and Local Historian” by V.A. Obruchev.
Vasily went camping in the mountains for the first time at the age of 16 and had to spend a winter night outside in the cold because the coach of the group got lost. The most memorable of his expeditions Elagin considers to be a six-month trip to the north of Kamchatka — once a helicopter could not deliver food to the group, the team had to starve for ten days.
Creating Yemelya
Elagin was keen on remaking and rebuilding motorcycles and used improvised materials to construct various mechanisms. The idea to create his own all-terrain vehicle originated while participating in expeditions of the known polar explorer Vladimir Chukov. Interest in the North grew into a serious hobby during these missions. Elagin, participating as a mechanic, noticed the shortcomings of vehicles and, inspired by the experience gained, set out to create his car, the one without flaws.
Twenty years have passed since the idea to create his all-terrain vehicle, and now Yemelya is a whole fleet of cars, made in two generations and six modifications. The first versions, named Yemelya 1 and Yemelya 2, set a record: the vehicles drove from the Arctic Circle (Salekhard city) to 81 °16' north latitude (Cape Arctic archipelago Severnaya Zemlya) and returned to the Arctic Circle (to Yamburg and Novy Urengoy). It was used to carry out the Sea Ice Automobile Expedition in 2008 and 2009.
In March 2009, the same cars took part in a "Sea Ice" automobile expedition that started from the Sredny island in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago on the floating ice of the Arctic Ocean and accomplished the goal of reaching the North Pole in 36 days. In 2013, a new ice expedition began, across the North Pole to Canada and again to Russia to the port of Dudinka, which ended in 2015.
Canada and again to Russia to the port of Dudinka, which ended in 2015.
In 2018-2019 autonomous expedition "Antarctica. 200 years of discoveries" covered 5,570 km in 28 days. In 2022-2023, test drives were conducted in Canada. The odometer on the first test drive showed 2810 km.
Performing circumnavigation
The total length of the completed world circumnavigation (2008-2015) was ~25,000 km.
The use ultra-low pressure tires, particularly special shell tires, the operating pressure, which varies in the range of 0.15-0.05 atm, ensures compliance with environmental requirements. A car with a weight of 1,650 kg is capable of towing a three trailers caravan with a payload weight of more than 2.5 tons under heavy off-road conditions.
The high passability, simplicity, and reliability of the design and huge internal space allow us to use our machines as mobile laboratories and environmental protection service vehicles for the Arctic and the Far North.
Coming through difficult terrains
Elagin considers the winch and the layout of the nodes to be his construction pride — the storage of the body is used effectively: both the driver, the engine, and the passengers benefit.
In conditions of extreme cold, the repair of a Special Mobile Unit can cause a lot of trouble. In Yemelya, access to the engine and whole transmission is facilitated: it is enough to remove the hood cover on the floor inside the car itself. You can also turn on the heater and do repairs while being in the warmth, safe from wind.
In addition to suspension repairs, access to all components and assemblies from the inside allows repairs to be carried out in comfortable conditions. The latest generation of Special Mobile Units is equipped with a centralized tire pressure monitoring system and power steering. Inverters-converters 12/220v are installed as well.
A reliable home
Expeditions require lots of space for spare parts, tools, service fluids, recovery gear, snow melting machine, extra fuel, space to store urine, and number two when traveling in Antarctica. Additional depending on the expedition, Ground Penetrating radar, science equipment, film gear, and more.
Yemelya has a bus layout and a width that allows you to live inside of it. The width of the cabin is 1900 mm. This space makes it easier to set up a camp — instead of installing a camp for 4 hours in polar conditions, the team comfortably lives in a car. Snow melting tanks are provided, they are inserted into special sockets in the engine compartment near the muffler.
The vehicle has a spacious insulated body with double glazing, an autonomous interior heater, and an engine heater boiler, which allows the car to become a reliable home for polar travelers and explorers for a long time.
Traction Capabilities
Compliance with environmental requirements is ensured by the use of ultra-low pressure tires with an operating pressure of only 0.05 atm. The Truck, with its weight of 1650 kg, can tow a caravan of three trailers with a payload mass of more than 2.5 tons in extreme off-road conditions.
Pneumatics (tire shells) stick to the ground (snow and ice), providing the strongest possible traction. Each Yemelya drags three trailers along the hummocks, each of which has three plastic barrels of diesel fuel (two — 200 liters each and one 120-liter), along with five or six plastic barrels with food and special equipment.

Yemelya can take fuel for 6000 km and go without external fuel support.
A diesel engine from a front-wheel drive Toyota passenger car is mounted inside the spatial duralumin frame and has a displacement of 2.2 liters.
Two shafts from the gearbox transmit torque to the lockable differentials of the front and middle axles. The rear axle is pluggable and also equipped with a lockable differential.
It drives through the driveshaft and chain drive from the middle axle. The drive shafts of all wheels exit the housing through the stuffing boxes.
Defying water
Yemelya Special Mobile Unit is constructed to move through deep snow, ice fields, thin ice, and hummocks, and to swim across polynyas(leads). Creating Yemelya was possible due to concentrating and implementing all the experience of designing and testing amphibious vehicles and all-terrain cars.
Since the motor, transmission, and electrics are located inside a sealed hull, Yemelya is not afraid to swim in water. The curb weight of the car is only 1.65 tons, and the total displacement of sixl tires is more than 3.5 tons. Therefore, the bottom of the hull is immersed in water by a few centimeters only. While swimming in open water, the car reaches a speed of 2-3 km/h due to the rotation of the wheels only. The wheel hubs are mounted on the levers of an independent suspension, which travel is ~400 mm.
A light electric winch is installed on the front bumper of the latest Yemelya generation. In the first versions, all-terrain vehicles were equipped with a mechanical winch driven by the front pulley of the engine, but later it was eliminated due to the extremely rare use. For welding work, the battery terminals are placed outside, on the body side, with the possibility of their serial connection.
See also