University Reveals aCar: An Electric Utility Vehicle For Africa

aCar electric utility vehicle

A frontal view of the aCar on test in Ghana,

aCar electric utility vehicle

The aCar was developed by the  Technical University of Munich.

Technical University of Munich (TUM) scientists have introduced a prototype electric powered utility vehicle designed for use in rural Africa. Four years in development, the prototype is called aCar, as in “all-rounder”, and was developed specifically to meet the needs of sub-Saharan countries.

The aCar is a cross between a UTV and a small truck, and is off-road capable and can transport heavy loads with a total load capacity of 1 ton. The aCar has four-wheel drive and electric powered to minimize maintenance, provide plenty of torque and be environmentally friendly. The battery can also be used to power winch or as an energy source. The modular design for the rear of the vehicle provides versatility to carry cargo, passengers, a mobile physicians office, a water treatment solution or other functionality. Other key specifications and features include:

  • 20 kW battery capacity
  • 48-volt system
  • 80 km range
  • Top speed:  60 km/h
  • 7 hour recharging time from 220 volt household socket
  • Optional solar sheets
  • Price: under 10,000 euros
  • 3.7m x 1.5 m x 2.1 m
  • Seating capacity:  2
  • Simple production and low manufacturing costs

The vehicle was tested in Ghana for a month and was well received by locals. The aCar will first be produced in Europe to understand and optimize production, but the goal is to move production and eventually component manufacturing to Africa.

Learn more:

This project highlights some of the obstacles in creating a capable and affordable vehicle for customers in developing countries. Not only does such  vehicle have to be affordable to purchase but also to operate. One might think that a large UTV manufacturer could just export their lower priced models. However, the complexity of the design, the need for a reliable fuel supply, and the additional cost of shipping the vehicle all create obstacles.

In terms of design, complexity invites potential for more breakdowns and requires a robust supply chain for parts and more technical expertise for repairs. A simple but robust design alleviates these issues. A leading UTV manufacturer would likely have to develop an entirely different platform for this market.

The modular approach for the aCar is different from the accessories and options approach in the UTV market. Developing modules for specific applications provides some flexibility but, in comparison to the UTV market, limits the level of customization that can be achieved. On the other hand, developing the modules and the requisite supply chain, is likely more cost effective than developing and supplying a wide range of accessories and options in areas where a dealer network will be very limited. A next step in this project may be to look at how the modular design approach can best balance cost, supply and complexity issues with vehicle customization to increase productivity and value.

Marc cesare,

STOV Self-driving Tech

Yamaha Viking VI autonomous driving

Yamaha Viking VI with autonomous driving technology.

Driverless technology and autonomous driving have been garnering plenty of attention and press lately. The vast majority of the focus has been on highway capable vehicles, but the small, task-oriented vehicle market (STOV) is active in this new area of innovation as well.

One recent example is Yamaha’s development of a fully autonomous Viking VI utility vehicle using their Autonomous System X1 technology. The screenshots from a video of the vehicle in action provides an idea of the technology at work.

Yamaha Viking VI

No driver but some additional screens.

Yamaha Viking VI

Some of the imagery tech the autonomous Viking VI uses.

Yamaha Viking VI

The autonomous Viking VI maneuvering around an obstacle on the trail.

The system combines GPS, LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit). Publicly available aerial imagery and digital elevation maps are used to plan the trip, and simulations from a terrain model are used to find the best local path. In addition, camera images are used to detect traversable ares in an off-road environment. The video of the Viking VI in autonomous action is impressive.

May Mobility self-driving GEM

GEM configured by MAy Mobility for self-driving.

Another example are two GEM vehicles being used by May Mobility to test self-driving technology in the city of Detroit. The testing will be conducted from Oct. 9 to 13 in conjunction with Bedrock, LLC, a real estate firm. The six seater GEMs are configured with May Mobility’s software and sensors and be used to transport Bedrock workers to and from various company locations. The vehicles will operate for three hours a day, travel only on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, and have a driver on board to take control in emergency situations if necessary. Learn more:

In our recently released STOV market study, SVR argues that self-driving technology could produce a significant boost to the STOV market in the coming years. The lower speed environments may provide a safer environment to initially implement self-driving technology. A number of self-driving test vehicles are being used as shuttles along readily defined loops with limited variation. Gated communities are another low speed environment with limited variability that could provide an easier entry point. The largest potential though resides in a large scale movement towards new urban mobility platforms. In congested urban areas the speed limitations of LSVs are less critical as is the lower vehicle range. On the plus side is the smaller size, zero emissions and lower noise of the vehicles. Self-driving technology has the potential to facilitate large scale deployment of low speed vehicles in urban environments.


BRP Announces FY18 Q2 Quarterly Results

Maverick X3 X RS Turbo R

The Maverick X3 X RS Turbo R helped drive strong sales in the second quarter.

BRP, manufacturer of Can-Am products, recently announced their financial results for the second quarter of their 2018 fiscal year which ended July 31, 2017. (All dollar amounts are in Canadian dollars.) Revenues increased 20% for the quarter to $1,027 million driven by strong demand in side-by-side and personal watercraft. Net income increased $168.9 million to $100.1 million.

It was a strong quarter for BRP and they continue to make solid gains in the UTV market and continue to take market share. The Defender line continues to meet with success on a quarter to quarter basis. The company has built out their dealer network and are looking to improve dealer performance. Look for them to introduce additional models on a regular basis.

The following are additional highlights from the earnings call and presentation that relate to the utility vehicle market.

  • Company introduced the 172hp Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R model during the quarter
  • North American retail sales for side-by-sides increased 50% for the quarter in an industry that grew low teens %.
  • North American ATV retail sales grew high teen % in an industry that grew low single digit %.
  • For side-by-side model year ending June 30, Can-Am retail sales grew mid-thirties % in an industry up mid-single digit %.
  • The X3 and the Defender line are particularly strong performers.
  • Side-by-side sales are driving parts, accessories and clothing revenue hire
  • Management is seeing results from improving dealer performance and is concentrating on that area rather than looking to add new dealers. Nearly 300 dealers were added in the last four years.
  • Side-by-side sales outside of North America are very strong as well.
  • Management reports that promotional activity in the ATV and side-by-side market is high with many new models being introduced and OEMs looking to reduce inventory.

UTV Industry News Briefs

CFMoto Motor company is planning to raise about $68 million in an initial share offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.  Learn more:

Can-Am is the official off-road vehicle for the Luke Bryan Farm Tour. There will be vehicle display booths at each tour venue. A main target customer for Can Am’s relatively new Defender product line is farmers.  Learn more:

Wells Fargo Commercial Distribution Finance extended its preferred dealer financing program with Kymco USA, a long time client. Separately, Kymco is offering a “Customer Choice” offer of customer cash or extended warranty on purchases of 2015 and 2016 year models through Sept. 30, according to its website. Learn more:

Kawasaki is donating five Mule UTVs to aid recovery efforts after the destruction left by hurricane Harvey. In addition the company is matching employee donations made to non-profit organizations.  Learn more:

Yamaha Motor Corp. will launch their power-assist electric bicycles in the United states beginning in 2018. While the company has been in the e-bike business for decades, the US market has not been targeted until now. Four models will be available ranging from street cruiser to more of a racing bike. Learn more:

Polaris Issues Recall of 1,600 General UTVs

2017 Polaris General Base

The 2017 Polaris General Base model in red is part of the recall.

2017 Polaris General Hunter

The Hunter version is recalled as well.

Polaris Industries recently announced the recall of approximately 1,600 2017 General utility vehicles due to inconsistent tire pressure information which could result in improperly-inflated tires, posing a crash hazard. The affected models are the Base model in red and the Hunter model in camo. No injuries have been reported related to this recall. Owners should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact Polaris for a new tire pressure label and addendum to the owner’s manual. Polaris can be contacted at 800-765-2747 or at for more information.

This is a relatively small recall compared to many of the industry recalls. In addition, the cost to Polaris for addressing the issue would appear to be minor. SVR tracks industry recalls and has compiled an ongoing list.

The complete recall information from the Consumer Safety Product Commission follows.

Recall Details

Description:  This recall involves all model year 2017 Polaris GENERAL Base and GENERAL Hunter two-seat, side-by-side recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs). The GENERAL Base was sold in red and the GENERAL Hunter was sold in camo. “Polaris” is printed on the front grill, “GENERAL” is printed on the rear panel and “1000” is printed on the front panel. The VIN is printed on the left rear vehicle frame below the cargo box.
Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact Polaris for a new tire pressure label and addendum to the owner’s manual. All known purchasers are being contacted directly by the firm.
Incidents/Injuries:  None reported
Sold At:  Polaris dealers nationwide from June 2016 through July 2017 for between $16,300 and $19,000.
Manufacturer(s):  Polaris Industries Inc., of Medina, Minn.
Importer(s):  Polaris Industries Inc., of Medina, Minn.
Manufactured In:  U.S. and Mexico
Units:  About 1,600
Marc Cesare,

Yamaha Introduces 2018 Wolverine X4 UTV

2018 Yamaha Wolverine X4

The new 2018 Yamaha Wolverine X4, a 4-passenger UTV designed to be more compact and nimble for recreational use.

Yamaha recently announced their new 4-passenger 2018 Wolverine X4 side-by-side. The Wolverine X4 features a new 847cc, twin-cylinder engine and stowaway full-size rear seats for flexible cargo space. To improve efficiency, the engine features a dry-sump design for a more compact layout, and an offset cylinder block to reduce friction loss, while rubber engine-mounts and a geared counterbalancer are designed to greatly reduce vibration at idle and throughout the RPM range, as well as reduce noise. The X4 also includes the new Yamaha Chip Controlled-Throttle (YCC-T®), a drive-by-wire system providing precise throttle control, and a key controlled speed system for restricting the vehicle’s top speed to 25 mph. The dimensions (59.8″ wide and 82.7″ wheelbase) of the new Wolverine X4 are purposely on the compact end of the scale to provide a more nimble vehicle for more technical trail riding. Other key features and specs include:

  • Ultramatic V-belt transmission with all-wheel engine braking
  • Yamaha On-Command 3-way locking differential; 2WD, 4WD, full diff-lock 4WD
  • 8.7″/8.9″ of front/rear suspension travel
  • 10.7″ of ground clearance
  • Rear self-leveling shocks
  • 26″ Maxxis tires
  • Electronic power steering
  • Hydraulic disc brakes
  • 600 lb. cargo bed capacity
  • 2,000 lb. towing capacity
  • Full underbody skid plates
  • Fully enclosed doors
  • Wide fenders
  • LED headlights and taillights
  • Two 12V DC outlets
  • Four pre-wired accessory switches
  • MSRP $15,999 in Graphite

Model variations include the Wolverine X4 in:

  • Yamaha Blue with overfenders and cast aluminum wheels (MSRP $16,499)
  • Realtree Xtra camo with overfenders and cast aluminum wheels (MSRP $16,899)
  • Matte Silver and Matte Carbon Special Edition (SE) models with overfenders, painted bodywork, color-matched interior and shock springs, and cast aluminum wheels (MSRP $17,249)

According to Yamaha managers they are trying to deliver a 4-seat UTV with some of the handling and size characteristics of a two seater and a high degree of versatility. They believe this segment of the market is currently underserved.

Learn more:

Comment:  The fact that the Wolverine X4 has been designed from the ground up and includes an entirely new engine shows the level of commitment Yamaha has made to the UTV space. They have rolled out new Wolverine and Viking models for 2018 after making a big push in the last two model years in the sport end of the market with the YXZ. The UTV market has become highly competitive and manufacturers will need to be introducing innovative new models on a regular basis to drive sales.

Marc Cesare,

New SVR Market Study Predicts Solid Growth For STOVs

In a new market study on the small task-oriented vehicle (STOV) market in the US and Canada, Small Vehicle Resource (SVR), LLC predicts growth over the 2017-2021 period. The market research reveals four trends coming together that will result in market gains of mid to high single digits in the forecast period and an industry value in the range of $15.8 billion at retail including parts and accessories.

  • Growing appreciation in a highly diverse market for the effectiveness of STOVs specifically designed to meet individual segment needs;
  • Increasing competition that will drive new product development as manufacturers seek to strengthen current market strongholds and stake out additional market segments with new and/or expanded product lines;
  • Continuing focus on accessories and attachments to enhance the versatility and value of STOVs, boost revenues and supplant other vehicle types such as pick-ups and tractors for work and full-size vehicles for transportation;
  • Golf manufacturers emphasizing non-fleet markets over the continuing slow/negative growth golf car fleet market.

Steve Metzger, SVR Managing Director, states that, “While the fleet market remains in a downsizing mode, it is a marginal decline. It will remain a significant component of the golf car-type vehicle market. On the other hand, SVR forecasts continued sizable gains in the non-fleet market, including light utility and transporter vehicles and personal transportation vehicles.” Metzger also notes, “SVR anticipates that important new opportunities lie ahead, including self-driving technology applications, as well as potential for a much broader market on a global basis.”

Marc Cesare, SVR Managing Director adds, “The off-road utility vehicle market continues to be a competitive vortex for golf car manufacturers seeking new markets, the powersports industry, and traditional manufacturers of work related utility vehicles. While market growth will be slower than the recent high growth years, it remains solid,” Cesare notes, “ and competition will drive product innovation in both base vehicles as well as options and attachments that improve vehicle performance and versatility.

Approximately a third of the market value is from electric powered STOVs, primarily in the form of golf cars or golf car derived utility vehicles and personal transportation vehicles (PTVs). PTVs are golf cars modified for gated community or low speed public road use and include low speed vehicles (LSVs). Key trends and projections for the market include:

  • In total, demand for electric powered STOVs will increase to over 300,000 vehicles in 2021.
  • The demand for non-fleet golf car type vehicles will more than offset the slight decline in the fleet golf car market, moving from under 50% of the total demand to over 50%.
  • Light utility vehicles produced by golf car and other manufacturers are expected to grow approximately 10% annually to 2021.
  • PTVs will continue to grow low single digits during the trend period and electric powered PTVs will slowly increase to represent nearly 75% of the market by 2021. LSVs will account for about one-fifth of the PTVmarket.

Metzger, states that, “The potential for even greater electric powered STOV growth is there. In the PTV market the combination of market forces and emerging technologies could greatly increase the applicability of PTVs. Increasing urbanization is expected to create congestion and pollution issues, and the search for new transportation solutions. The advent of self-driving vehicle technology along with improved battery technology creates the potential for mobility platforms that can in part be based on small PTVs.” He further notes, “Gated communities with their more controlled environments could prove to be excellent testing grounds and the concepts could then migrate to urban environments that are well suited to low speed vehicle operations.”

The new study, the eighth in the series of studies produced by SVR since 2000, covers utility, off-road, and personal transportation vehicles, and fleet golf cars.

The study is entitled, 2017 Market Report on the Small, Task-Oriented Vehicle Industry: Transition and Growth –Trends from 2012; Forecasts to 2021. 

For additional, detailed information on study content a brochure is available with a table of contents ( Small Task-Oriented Vehicle Study – Analysis & Forecast (PDF)) or contact:

Steve Metzger,

(914) 293-7577