Honda Unveils Swappable Battery for Electric UTVs

Honda Mobile Power Pack

Honda’s Mobile Power Pack recently unveiled at the CES.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Honda unveiled a new swappable Mobile Power Pack battery system as well as UTVs and other products that use the system. As part of this Mobile Power Pack battery ecosystem Honda introduced a portable power system, “Mobile Power Pack Exchanger” and personal charging system.

Honda’s Mobile Power Pack is designed to have a capacity of 1 kWh or higher and envisioned as a method of storing and later using renewable energy produced during off peak hours. To that end, Honda presented several product concepts powered by the these swappable battery packs.

Honda ausnomous 3E-D18

The autonomous 3E-D18 combines Honda’s work in batteries, robotics and powersports.

One such product is the 3E-D18 which Honda refers to as “an autonomous off-road workhorse device utilizing AI”. The vehicle features a Honda ATV chassis with an electric powertrain. By changing the upper part of the vehicle, Honda anticipates the vehicle being used in fire-fighting, agriculture, sports training support or a myriad of other uses.

Honda Electric Pioneer 500

An electrified Honda Pioneer 500 powered by the new mobile power pack.

Honda electric Pioneer 500

A close-up of the Honda UTV showing a pair of the battery packs.

Another product presented was an electric powered UTV based upon their existing Honda Pioneer 500 model. They envision the vehicle being used for urban transportation, small cargo delivery and outdoor recreation. Other products included an electric powered scooter, a wheelchair type vehicle, a robotic cart for indoor use and a AI driven personal assistant called the “Empathy Concept”.  Learn more:  Honda.com

SVR’s Take

We have already noted some autonomous vehicle efforts in the UTV market by Yamaha and Polaris. This concept from Honda is the first to utilize electric power. These vehicles are likely to be used in highly-specialized and high value applications such as military and fire fighting first because of their high initial cost. As the cost of the technology decreases, they should be used in a wider array of applications. These type of vehicles require a range of competencies and technologies that likely relegates their development to only the largest UTV manufacturers or manufacturers from entirely different industries. Smaller or medium-sized players will likely have to look for technology partners to compete in this area.

The swappable battery concept may be a way of addressing range issues for electric UTVs. One can envision a UTV that is used for both work and recreation where work uses do not create a range or battery power issue, but an owner might want to bring along an extra battery pack for trail riding. In a work fleet scenario batteries could be swapped out similar to what is done with forklifts.

Another interesting point is that Honda lists urban transport and small cargo delivery as potential electric UTV uses. Neither of these uses are currently a primary use of UTVs and indicates a potential long-term growth area for the industry, although one that would require some changes to road use regulations.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Road Use Regulation Roundup: January 2018

golf cart sign

The following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels in 2017.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • After Ohio state officials passed a LSV law municipalities in the state are now passing local ordinances.
  • A number of municipalities are considering or now allowing the use of LSVs for taxi services.
  • Many of the regulations being passed or considered involve both golf cars and LSVs as opposed to just LSVs.
  • Some of the regulations being considered or passes involve allowing UTVs, ATVs and/or mini-trucks on public roads.
  • Some municipalities are reviewing ordinances because of various safety concerns related to the use of golf cars, UTVs, etc.

Malinta, OH – The village council discussed an ordinance allowing golf cars to be operated on public roads.

Bowling Green, OH – The Bowling Green City Council approved an ordinance allowing golf cars to be used on certain low speed city streets with a speed limit of 25 mph or less. The vehicles must be registered and titled,  and possess state-mandated safety equipment.

Garden City, KS – The Garden City Commission passed an ordinance to allow utility vehicles to operate on certain city streets. A previous ordinance allowing mini-trucks on the streets inadvertently left out utility vehicles.

Sanibel-Captiva Island, FL – The City Council denied a permit to allow a business to locate a low-speed vehicle rental service because of a concern over having adequate parking space.

Waterloo, IA – The Waterloo City Council will allow the use of side-by-sides in the Riverview Recreation Area’s off-road vehicle park which previously only allowed motorcycles and ATVs. Some citizens were concerned about the mixing of larger vehicles with the smaller motorcycles and ATVs, and the amount of damage the side-by-sides could do to the trails.

Toledo, OH – The Toledo City Council approved the use of golf cars and LSVs on designated public streets through the end of 2018. Under the ordinance LSVs can include mini-trucks and UTVs that travel up to 25 mph.

Ormond Beach, FL – County officials posted signage along John Anderson Drive to indicate that golf cars are restricted from using the road. The signage is for unlicensed golf cars as golf cars in the state can be classified as LSVs if they meet certain requirements.

Hammock, FL – County commissioners are discussing the issue of golf car use on local roads after numerous residents raised the issue. Residents are concerned about golf cars using bike paths, the ability to cross a state highway to gain access to more roads and the cost of street legal requirements.

Elba, AL – Following numerous complaints, the Elba Police Chief had to address the use of unauthorized golf cars and UTVs on public roads. They are allowed on roadways but must meet certain requirements and be registered, and drivers must be at least 16 years old.

Auburn, AL – The city council passed an ordinance allowing the use of low speed vehicles to operate as cabs on certain city streets. The council was approached by an entrepreneur who is interested in starting an LSV taxi service.

Birmingham, AL – The Birmingham City Council is considering an ordinance that will allow taxi services that use low speed vehicles. The ordinance is based on one from Tuscaloosa where the company Joyride is operating such a service.

Bay St. Louis, MS – The city council wants greater enforcement of regulations regarding the use of LSVs, citing underage driving, parking on sidewalks and adults drinking while driving. The golf cars must be street ready and the drivers licensed and insured.

Ocean Springs, MS – Ocean Springs is considering an ordinance that will allow the use of golf cars and LSVs on streets with a speed limit of 30 mph or less.

Kentucky – A bill was signed that allows the commercial use of LSVs to make deliveries. UPS is planning to use the vehicles during the peak holiday season while the Teamsters Local 89 union, which represents many UPS employees, opposes the move citing lower pay for the LSV drivers and concerns about safety.

Jamestown, RI – The city council passed an ordinance that will allow golf cars, UTVs, ATVs and mini-trucks to be used on designated roads.

Jamestown, RI – Town officials are considering an ordinance that will allow LSVs on local roads.

Southport, NC – The board of alderman are reviewing a golf car ordinance amid concerns about the age of drivers, the use of alcohol while driving, safety requirements and the use of golf cars with four rows of seats.

Fort Myers Beach, FL – The city council is considering a permit that will allow, Nickel Ride, a free low speed vehicle taxi service to operate in the town.

Eustis, FL – Eustis Commisioners are considering an ordinance that will allow golf cars and lows speed vehicles in the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.

Carolina Beach, NC – The city council passed an ordinance clarifying the use of golf cars on local city streets. The vehicles will not be allowed to cross streets with speed limits above 35 mph and must have seat belts, headlights, taillights, turn signals and a mirror.

Highland Village, TX – The Highland Village City Council is looking into allowing golf cars and low speed vehicles to operate on certain local streets.

Peachtree City, GA – Peachtree City updated their regulations regarding the authorized use of golf car paths. The update is meant to clarify the rules and allow for better enforcement.

Cloquet City, MN – Cloquet City Councilors passed an ordinance that allows the use of ATVs and UTVs on cerrtain local streets. The vehicles need a permit and the driver needs a license or ATV safety certificate.

 

Will Electric UTVs Disrupt the Market?

Nikola Zero

A prototype Nikola Zero electric UTV from Nikola Motor on test in Utah.  Photo Credit:  Nikola Motor

Nikola Zero

A shot of the Nikola Zero prototype’s underbelly while rock climbing.  Photo Credit:  Nikola Motor

Fred Lambert of Electrek.co, a news site that focuses on electric vehicles along with solar and wind power, was part of a small group of people that recently had a chance to experience the prototype Nikola Zero electric powered UTV in the challenging terrain around St. George, UT. His experience indicates that the Nikola Zero is not just vaporware with some outstanding specs but an actual UTV moving towards production. More importantly, Lambert’s experience with the Nikola Zero points to the possibility of electric UTVs significantly disrupting the market.

Before further discussing market disruption, lets take a look at the Nikola Zero test drive. The exact specs for the prototype were not provided but Nikola Motor stated that it is fairly close to a production version. Missing from the prototype are body panels. The prototype appeared to meet the the original spec sheet, which promised 555 hp and 4,900 ft-lbs of torque along with 20″ of suspension travel and 14.5″ of ground clearance. The prototype weighed in at around 3,500 lbs, featured 35″ tires, and was outfitted with a 107 kWh battery pack as opposed to the planned high end option of 125 kWh. For comparison, either size provides the UTV with a bigger battery pack than the maximum 100 kWh pack for a Tesla. The prototype’s display screen at the beginning of the test day indicated a 153 mile range at a 92% charge level.

Some highlights from Lambert’s take on the test drive:

  • Roomy 4-passenger vehicle even in the rear seats
  • Top-speed reached was 57 mph limited by terrain but company notes 80 mph is possible
  • Torque of four electric motors and low center of gravity made climbing even up 50% inclines seem effortless
    • One 50% grade was tackled from a standstill where as gas-powered UTVs needed a running start
    • A rock climbing spot was easily conquered by the Nikola Zero while a Can Am UTV and crew were stymied
    • In another difficult spot a Yamaha was easily passed
  • Greatly reduced ride noise compared to a gas UTV
  • Two hours of driving and 1,500 ft. of elevation gain used about one-third of the battery capacity

The company remarked that they are using LG and Samsung batteries in a patented battery pack architecture. They are planning on producing a few hundred units in 2018 and a few thousand in 2019 with a MSRP in the $35,000 range for the 75 kWh battery pack option and $55,000 for the 125 kWh battery pack option. The production version is expected to be launched in December, 2017.

What does this test drive say about how electric UTVs can disrupt the market. One area is performance, especially in the recreational end of the market. The amount of torque and responsiveness of an electric UTV would be very difficult for gas powered vehicles to match. Having motors at each wheel is another advantage as is the lower center of gravity. A gas powered UTV simply cannot be designed this way. Even for the utility segment, while the capability for high speeds would be considered undesirable by many employers, the performance features applied to heavy duty work applications would be welcome.

Performance based disruption is directly tied to expertise in engine design and development. The major UTV manufacturers have invested enormous amounts of money and resources into developing their own engine technology to create more powerful and lighter gas engines as they have engaged in horsepower and torque battles. Electric UTVs have the potential to make that expertise obsolete and demand a focus on batteries, battery pack design and management, and electric motors instead.

Another area of potential disruption, that may be undersold at this point, is the relatively low noise level of electric UTVs. While many riders enjoy the sound of a roaring engine and maybe even consider it integral to the off-road experience, the lower noise levels may prove quite appealing during long hours of riding. The ability to more easily carry on conversations could increase the social aspects of riding. Quieter electric UTVs could potentially open up more areas for riding where noise is a primary land use concern. Again this will be an area that gas powered UTVs will have a hard time competing.

Another potential area of disruption is vehicle reliability. While the chassis, suspension system and many other parts will still be needed for electric UTVs, the electric powertrain eliminates a lot of moving parts and other systems associated with gas engines. A quick perusal of recent UTV recalls indicates that a significant portion of them are related to the gas engine or ancillary system. There is also less maintenance involved with electric powertrains. On the other hand, battery packs will have to demonstrate their reliability.

At this point, a major impediment to this disruptive technology is price. As the anticipated pricing of the Nikola Zero demonstrates, electric UTVs are very expensive machines relative to the current market. A lot of that pricing is tied to the battery pack. Unless battery pricing decreases significantly an electric UTV like the Nikola Zero will only be a niche product targeting the high performance end of the market, not dissimilar to what the original Tesla Roadster was. On the other hand, battery pricing has been dropping significantly, so more affordable but relatively high performance UTVs may not be that far away.

Learn more:  Electrek.co, Nikolamotor.com

Marc Cesare, SmallVehicleResource.com

Textron Q3 2017 Earnings Report

Textron Off Road Wildcat X LTD

The 2018 Wildcat X LTD now under the Textron Off Road brand rather than Arctic Cat.

Textron reported third quarter revenues of $3.5 billion, up 7.2% from the third quarter 2016, while profit decreased $15 million for the quarter to $295 million. “Growth in the third quarter was the result of strong commercial demand at Bell, increased deliveries at Textron Systems and higher revenues at Industrial due to the acquisition of Arctic Cat,” said Textron Chairman and CEO Scott C. Donnelly.

Textron has folded Arctic Cat into their Specialized Vehicles division which also includes E-Z-GO, Cushman and other brands. They recently merged their Stampede, Bad Boy Off Road and Arctic Cat lines under the Textron Off Road brand. This includes a pared down lineup of previous Arctic Cat models and the introduction of Bad Boy electric vehicles under the Prowler model name. The following are highlights from the earnings call that relate to STOV vehicles.

  • Management reports putting a lot of resources into the integration of Arctic Cat and the process is proceeding on plan
  • The plan involved moving dirt manufacturing to Thief River and centralizing engine manufacturing in St. Cloud, as well as, clearing dealer inventory and educating them about the new lineup of vehicles under the Textron Off Road brand
  • The launch of the lithium ion battery powered golf products has gone “extremely well”
  • Side-by-side sales year over year did well, in part from clearing out inventory
  • Management reports good uptake by dealers of non-Arctic Cat products such as the Stampede and the recently announced Prowler EVs

Learn more:  Seekingalpha.com (Earnings call transcript)

More STOV Self-Driving Tech

Polaris MRZR X autonomous vehicle

The self-driving MRZR X developed by Polaris, ARA and Neya Systems for the Army’s SMET program.

A recent post highlighted current self-driving tech in the STOV market and commented on the potential in the future. In the past week I came across a couple of additional examples of self-driving tech in the market.

The first is a collaboration between Polaris Industries, Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Neya Systems to provide a platform for the US Army’s Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) program. Polaris brings their MRZR vehicle platform, currently sold to US and allied military organizations around the world, to the collaboration, Neya Systems is providing advanced unmanned systems technology and ARA brings experience in bringing computer and other technical expertise to national security issues. The SMET program’s goal is to develop a ground robotic vehicle to carry a squad’s worth of life support and combat gear. An Army squad typically consists of nine soldiers. (Learn more:  Businesswire.com)

A self-driving shuttle from Auro which was recently acquired by Ridecell.

The second example is California based Ridecell that is developing self-driving, low-speed vehicles for use on private property such as colleges, theme parks, business parks, retirement communities, and basically any campus like setting that can set it’s own traffic rules. Ridecell recently acquired autonomous shuttle maker Auro Robotics. Ridecell will also be providing fleet-management software and services which they already provide for BMW’s and Volkswagen’s car sharing services.The battery-electric shuttle has a top speed of 25 mph and a 90-mile range. Auro currently builds three different configurations to suit various transportation needs and is using GEMs as their base vehicle platform. They provide 2, 6 or 12 seat shuttles depending on customer need. Learn more:  Greencarreports.com

Ridecell is targeting exactly the markets I mentioned in my previous post. The college campus market in particular is already a major market for GEM. However, local GEM dealers could find themselves in competition with Ridecell and indirectly with Polaris who manufactures GEM vehicles, if they end up selling directly to Ridecell. It may be useful for Ridecell, Polaris corporate and local GEM dealers to collaborate in marketing self-driving vehicles. Ridecell could significantly expand their distribution and service channel and enhance their marketing efforts, Polaris could sell more GEMs without alienating their dealer base while establishing the GEM brand in the self-driving space, and GEM dealers could provide a value-added, next generation product to their customers while adding a differentiating and potentially higher margin product to their vehicle lineup.

For GEM dealers this could also be an opportunity to grab a greater share of the gated community market. Traditionally this has been a harder sell for LSVs because of the price of LSVs in comparison to used, refurbished, new and customized golf cars. The Ridecell product however would more likely be marketed to the organization operating the community rather than individual owners, since it would be a shuttle service shared by the community. The economics would be different as well, as the shuttle service would likely need to start with a brand new vehicle. Over the long term, a self-driving shuttle service could very well significantly erode the individual vehicle market in gated communities.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

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:  TUM.de

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, Smallvehicleresource.com

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:  Startribune.com

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.

 

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:  Reuters.com

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:  Powersportsbusiness.com

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:  Powersportsfinance.com

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: Thedrive.com

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: LATimes.com

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,  smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com

(914) 293-7577

Nikola Powersports Announces Nikola Zero Electric UTV Specs

Nikola Zero electric UTV

Nikola Powersports has released the finalized specs for their Nikola Zero electric UTV.

Nikola Zero electric UTV Nikola Zero electric UTVNikola Powersports, which had previously revealed a prototype electric UTV, has announced the final specifications and design for their Nikola Zero four-passenger UTV. The specs are quite impressive with a 415 hp and 3,675 lbs of torque base option that can be bumped to 555 hp and 4,900 lbs of torque. The company is also touting the vehicle as a potentially street legal ready vehicle. The Nikola Zero has three battery options:  75kWh, 100kWh and 125kWh. The Zero will have a 200 mile range in 4×4 off-road mode with the largest battery pack. According to CEO Trevor Milton,

The Nikola Zero will be the first UTV to come with optional Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS), stability control, anti-roll-over, traction control and torque vectoring. Normally these options are reserved for high-end sports cars and not normally found in UTVs. We have worked hard to make these UTVs street legal, and in many states, you may be able to drive the Nikola Zero UTV to work. Once you test drive the Nikola Zero, you will want to trade in your current UTV. No other competitor UTV can match the Nikola Zero’s performance. We are not talking about a few seconds faster than the competition, we are talking about laps faster, with speeds up to 0-60 in 3.9 seconds with four passengers inside.

Key specs of the Nikola Zero include:

  • 4 passenger
  • 400-volt AC Motors
  • On-Demand 4×4 or 2×4 at any speed
  • Baja style hubs and disc brakes with Motor Regenerative Braking
  • Active descent control
  • 20″ of front/rear travel with 3.0″ FOX Podium Internal Bypass Shocks
  • Electronic power steering
  • 4-Wheel Hydraulic Disc brakes with Triple-Bore Front & Rear Calipers
  • 32″ tires with Method Wide-5 beadlock wheels
  • 14″ of ground clearance
  • 62″ wide and 74″ high
  • 3,500 lbs dry weight
  • LED headlights and taillights
  • Digital gauge
  • 10″ and 7″ displays
  • Options
    • Anti-lock braking
    • Street legal package
    • 555 hp
    • 100 kWh and 125 kWh battery packs
    • 4×4 torque vectoring system
    • Anti-roll protection
    • Traction control
    • Front and rear 4,500 lb. winches
    • Factory audio system
    • Windshield
    • Mirrors
    • Cameras

Some additional information about the Zero:

  • The lithium battery pack ranges from 500 to 1,500 lbs depending on the size and is waterproof
  • Each wheel has an electric motor
  • The solar option will provide about 40 miles per day in range
  • There are several charging options providing charging times of anywhere from 3 to 14 hrs to full charge
  • Over-the-air software updating

Nikola Zero pricing starts at $35,000 and you can currently reserve one with a $750 deposit. A dealer ride and drive event is being planned in December 2017 in St. George, Utah. The company expects to start delivering the UTVs sometime in 2018. Nikolamotor.com

Comment:  These are really big battery packs, similar to what Tesla’s use. This raises questions about whether they can really hit that price point and where do they fit the batteries and cooling system for packs that large. On price Tesla’s battery pack is in the range of $190 per kWh from what I have read with the aim to reduce that by 30% for the new Model 3 which would reduce the cost to $135 per kWh. At $135 the cost of a 75 kWh pack is $10,125 and at $190 the cost is $14,250. This is assuming Nikola Motor can match Tesla’s costs which is unlikely considering Tesla is thought to have the lowest battery pack costs in the market and has much higher volumes than Nikola Motor.

I am skeptical about the price point but the technology is certainly available to build such a vehicle. The pricing has to be considered in the context of the high end UTVs that the Nikola Zero will be competing against which are already in the $25-30k range. This segment of the market is certainly driven by product features and performance and a portion of the segment may be willing to pay a sizable premium if the vehicle performs as advertised.

Another issue is whether consumers in this segment want to switch from ICE to electric powered vehicles regardless of performance. The sound of a high-powered engine is part of the fun, is it not?

The street legal aspect of the Nikola Zero could change the value proposition and make the price premium more palatable. From the local ordinances SVR tracks, more and more municipalities are allowing UTVs to be used on local roads. Granted, these are usually low speed roads, but if you can use the vehicle to also make local trips downtown then it becomes more like a second car.

Possibly the biggest issue is if the company can ever get the vehicle to market. There have been plenty of electric vehicle startups that have had impressively designed vehicles but are never put into production. I would like the vehicle to actually make it to dealers. Then we can see if it can disrupt the market.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com