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

2018 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 EPS Reviews

2018 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 EPS

The 2018 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 EPS.

The 2018 Polaris XP 1000 EPS seats three and is powered by a 999cc, 82 hp gas engine with EFI. This model features electronic power steering, High Performance On-Demand AWD/2WD/ VersaTrac Turf Mode, 11″ of front and rear suspension travel, 13″ of ground clearance, a 2,500 lb towing capacity and a 1,000 lb. capacity cargo dump bed with gas assist. This base model is priced at $15,299. Some key improvements over the 2017 model include a stiffer chassis, more suspension travel and ground clearance, increased payload, greater towing capacity, tighter steering system and improved cargo bed.

Polaris also offers what might be called a “premium” EPS model for a $1,000 more with several automotive style paint options as well as aluminum Black Xcelerator 2.0 wheels and cut and sew seats. For a further $200 you can have camo graphics. There is also a Northstar Edition for $23,999 which comes with a complete cab with heating and AC.

The following are summaries from a number of reviews of the 2018 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 EPS. These include reviews from trade magazines as well as user generated content. In general the reviews of this model are positive. Polaris made a number of improvements both large and small from the 2017 model and they were well received. Some of the more common features that reviewers liked included:

  • Improved ingress and egress
  • Large amounts of cab storage including a flip-up seat
  • Built-in electrical buses for easily adding accessories
  • Better low power delivery and smoother power delivery overall
  • Improved cargo bed

www.atv.com – Two days of testing at a hunting property in Louisiana

  • Slightly improved seat entry and egress
  • “Massive” amounts of storage in the cab including fold up passenger seat for more cargo area
  • Cargo bed has more molded in dividers
  • Easy access to engine for maintenance
  • Built-in electrical buses for easily adding accessories such as a winch
  • Quiet cab
  • Smooth power and throttle delivery

www.utvplanet.ca – Test drive in work and trail environment.

  • Great suspension on a variety of terrain at slower speeds and improved over 2017 model at higher speeds with less body roll.
  • Better low end power delivery
  • “This is the most fun Ranger we’ve ever driven.”
  • More comfortable seats with additional padding
  • Cup holders have handle cutouts for mugs
  • Lots of cab storage
  • “Love” the new truck-inspired exterior design
  • Improved handling with tighter steering system and better feel
  • Smooth and controllable power delivery
  • More trail capable with “.. improved control, ride quality and stability of the new, stiffer frame.”

Cycle Works Edmonton – Video walk through of various aspects of the vehicle

  • Pre-built busbars for easy accessory connection
  • Easy access to engine for maintenance
  • Reinforced cargo box
  • Easier cab ingress and egress
  • Lots of cab storage – “Really like” the lower storage area in the dash
  • Easy access and more storage with flip up seats
  • Older accessories except doors will fit on new machines
  • Skid plates and biggest standard bumper in the industry
  • Can switch suspension to outside positioning for heavier weight like cab
  • Tailgate can easily handle weight when sitting and latch system is beefier

User Forum – Actually a Honda forum but discussed the Ranger XP 1000.

  • A number of users noted the increased ground clearance and greater towing and cargo bed capacity
  • Several voiced concerns about reliability in light of all the Polaris recalls
  • A couple of posters wanted doors instead of nets
  • Some noted the improved suspension and improved belts which posters noted as a problem in the past
  • Some posters liked the new design which was compared to that of a Toyota Tundra while others did not like it

Polaris Marketing Video – Marketing video that highlights some of the key features of the Ranger XP 1000 EPS

Dirt Trax Television – In-depth look video presentation. Mostly a presentation by a Polaris employee but a thorough explanation of the many changes made compared to the 2017 model.

John Deere Recalls Large Number of Gator Crossover UTVs

Gator XUV utility vehicle

One of the Gator crossover utility vehicles part of a large recall by John Deere.

John Deere announced a large recall of their XUV crossover utility vehicle because of a steering shaft issue. The recall involves approximately 68,300 Gator XUV825, XUV825 S4, XUV855, and XUV855 S4 crossover utility vehicles sold between March 2012 and November 2017. The steering shaft can separate from the steering rack assembly and result in a loss of steering control. Consumers should immediately stop using the vehicle and contact their John Deere dealer for a free repair.

This is one of the largest recalls in the market in the last few years outside of the well publicized Polaris recalls in 2016. Any recall over 10,000 vehicles would be considered large compared to what typically occurs in the market. SVR tracks recent recalls of UTVs, LSVs and golf cars.  Luckily, there have been no reports of injuries and only nine reports of steering control loss.

The following is recall information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

John Deere Recalls Crossover Gator Utility Vehicles Due to Crash Hazard (Recall Alert)

Name of product:  John Deere Crossover Gator™ utility vehicles
Hazard:  The steering shaft can separate from the steering rack assembly and result in a loss of vehicle steering control, posing a crash hazard.
Recall date:  December 21, 2017
Units:  About 68,300
Description:  This recall involves John Deere models XUV825, XUV825 S4, XUV855, and XUV855 S4 Crossover Gator utility vehicles equipped with power steering. The model number and “John Deere” are printed on the side of the vehicle. The serial number begins with 1M0825 or 1M0855 and is located on the passenger side of the frame under the cargo box. The vehicles have seating for two or four passengers.

Remedy:  Consumers should stop using the recalled utility vehicles and contact an authorized John Deere dealer for a free repair. John Deere is contacting purchasers of the recalled utility vehicles directly.

Incidents/Injuries:  John Deere has received nine reports of steering loss. No injuries have been reported.

Sold At:  John Deere dealers nationwide from March 2012 through November 2017 for between $13,400 and $16,100.

Manufacturer(s):  Deere & Company, of Moline, Ill.

Manufactured In:  U.S.

Recall number:  18-709
Consumer Contact:  Deere & Company at 800-537-8233 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET or online at www.deere.com and select Product Recall Information on the drop-down menu under Services & Support for more information.

Tata Ace Mini-truck Reaches 2 Million Vehicle Milestone

Tata Motors Tata Ace Mega

The Tata Ace Mega is one variant of the popular mini-truck from Tata Motors.

Tata Motors of India recently announced that the 2 millionth Tata Ace mini-truck had been sold. The company reached the milestone in 12 years. The Tata Ace is popular in India and other Southeast Asia countries where mini-trucks and a host of other small vehicles are used for “last mile” transportation in a spoke and hub system. According to Tata management the company controls 65% of the mini-truck market. Other players in the market include Mahindra with their Jeeto vehicle and Piaggio with their Porter 700.

The Tata Ace platform has grown into over a dozen offerings since being launched in 2005. The Tata Ace family includes brands like Ace, Zip, Mega and Mint for cargo transport and Magic, Mantra and Iris for passenger transport. The vehicles come in a range of engine power, engine type and body configurations to fit a wide spectrum of end-use applications in urban to rural settings. For example they offer the Super Ace Mint with a suction machine for sewage and manhole cleaning and other models are specifically designed for use as food trucks. Small scale transporters and entrepreneurs are the main target customers for these vehicles.

Mini-trucks are not as popular in the United States, in part, because the do not meet safety and emissions regulations for on road use. There are about a dozen states that allow them limited access to roads with a speed restriction typically in the 25 mph to 35 mph range. They are more popular in some farming communities where they have served as a utility vehicle for use off-road or on road moving between fields. To a large degree the UTV has functionally become the US version of the mini-truck.   Learn more: Tatamotors.com

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Polaris Recall Issues with RZR 900 & 1000 Models Persists

2016 Polaris RZR 900 EPS

The 2016 Polaris RZR 900 EPS is one of a number of previously recalled models still experiencing issues despite being repaired.

Polaris continues to have recall issues related to their RZR 900 and 1000 which were previously recalled. According to a joint statement issued by CPSC and Polaris, some vehicles that had been repaired under the recall are still experiencing fires. In addition 2017 RZRs not included in the recall are experiencing fires as well. The original recall was initiated in April 2016  and covered model year 2013 – 2014 RZR XP 900, 2014 – 2016 RZR XP 1000, 2015 – 2016 RZR 900 & S 900, and 2016 RZR S 1000 vehicles. The recall involved approximately 133,000 vehicles.

Polaris can’t seem to shake their recall issues. According to management they have put additional manpower and resources into addressing the issue in a systematic way to improve product development, quality control and issue tracking. What is not known is if these issues are related to previous systemic problems before new processes and people were put into place or if they show that problems still persists after the changes were made, which would be more worrisome. SVR has been tracking recalls from Polaris and other manufacturers.

The following is the joint statement from the CPSC and Polaris.

12/19/2017 10:54:00 AM
Joint Statement of CPSC and Polaris on Polaris RZR 900 and 1000 Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs)
Minneapolis, MN (December 19, 2017) – The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Polaris are informing the public about fires on model year 2013–2017 Polaris RZR 900 and 1000 Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs). These fires have caused death, serious injuries, and property damage.

Most of these vehicles were voluntarily recalled by Polaris in April 2016 to address fire hazards (https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2016/polaris-recalls-rzr-recreational-off-highway-vehicles-due).

However, users of the vehicles that were repaired as part of the April 2016 recall continue to report fires, including total-loss fires. The 2017 RZRs were not included in the April 2016 recall, but these models have also experienced fires.

The CPSC and Polaris continue to work together to ensure fire risks in these vehicles are addressed. However, at this time, the CPSC and Polaris want to make the public aware of the fires involving these vehicles.

The CPSC advises consumers to report any fire or overheating-related incidents at: www.SaferProducts.gov or the CPSC Hotline at 1-800-638-2772.

BRP Reports Quarterly Earnings – FY2018 Q3

Can Am Defender Max

The Can Am Defender Max and the Defender line as a whole helped drive sales.

Maverick X3 X RS Turbo R

The Maverick X3 X RS Turbo R and other X# models have helped drive sales as well.

BRP reported third quarter earnings for fiscal year 2018 of $1,241million ($C), a 15% increase from last year. Sales were driven by their Year-Round Products division which includes side-by-sides and Seasonal Products division which includes snowmobiles. For the quarter, Year-Round Products revenue increased $77 million or 20.1% to $460.9 million mainly on higher volume of Maverick X3 and the newly launched Maverick Trail.

The following are highlights of the earnings call related to the side-by-side market.

  • Side-by-side retail increased low 30% compared to an industry up high single digits
  • Launched the new 50″ wide Maverick Trail marking entry into the trail segment
  • Announced investment to increase their manufacturing capabilities in Mexico in response to ongoing strong demand for Defender and X3 models
  • North America side-by-side industry up low teen percent for the first third of the model year
  • Can-Am’s international side-by-side retail sales were up 80% for the quarter and the Defender and Maverick MAX models grew over 100% in markets like Mexico, China and Europe
  • The management stated that they did not follow some of their competitors who were aggressive with promotions in the quarter
  • The Defender line continues to make inroads into the farm and rural markets
  • Commander sales are flat to low single digit growth and the company has lost market share in that segment but gained share in the overall market
  • The management believes that better and more feature rich products across the industry are helping to drive replacement of older vehicles

Learn more:  Finance.yahoo.com (Earnings call transcript)

This marks another strong quarter for BRP as they continue to gain market share in the side-by-side market. Management expects to continue to follow their plan of adding new models every six months until 2020. The overall market appears to remain steady and strong with solid growth.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Can-Am Expands Maverick X3 Lineup with 5 New Models

Maverick X3 X mr Turbo R

The new, mud-specific Can-Am Maverick X3 X mr Turbo R.

Maverick X3 900 HO

The new Maverick X3 900 HO features a 90 hp engine and an entry level price point.

Can-Am announced five new Maverick X3 models as the company continues to build out their side-by-side offerings with steady and high paced product development. The five new models include:

  1. The all new Maverick X3 900 HO targeting an entry level price point with a 90 hp machine featuring 18″ of front and rear suspension travel and premium FOX 2.5 Podium Piggyback shocks. MSRP $17,999
  2. Mud specific, top-of-the-line, 172-hp Maverick X3 X mr Turbo R featuring fully lockable, on-the-fly Smart-Lok front differential optimized with multiple driving modes for superb handling and traction in the mud. MSRP $25,999
  3. Lower priced Maverick X3 X mr Turbo with a 120 hp engine and 64″ rather than 72″ width, but keeps many of the same features including the Smart-Lok technology. MSRP $22,699
  4. The 2018 Maverick X3 X rs Turbo R adds Smart-Lok technology which features 2×4, 4×4 Front Differential lock and both TRAIL ACTIV and TRAIL modes. MSRP $26,899
  5. The 2018 Maverick X3 MAX X rs Turbo R also adds Smart-Lok technology. MSRP $29,399

Learn more:  BRP.com

Cat Introduces Utility Vehicles

Caterpillar CUV102D

The new Cat CUV102D from Caterpillar which partnered with Textron Specialized Vehicles to produce their UTV line.

Caterpillar Cat CUV82

The gas powered Cat CUV82 is the other model in the new product line.

Last month Caterpillar announced that they were partnering with Textron Specialized Vehicles to produce a line of Cat branded utility vehicles. This month two Cat utility vehicles and their specs have been revealed. The CUV82 is a gas powered model and the CUV102D is a diesel powered model.

The CUV82 has a 50 hp, three cylinder engine and a top speed of 45 mph, but can be restricted to 25 mph. The CUV 102D features a 25 hp, 3-cylinder diesel with a top speed of 25 mph. Clearly work vehicles, the CUV82 and CUV102D each have a 1,000 lb. capacity steel cargo bed and a 2,000 lb. towing capacity. The vehicles are designed for all day comfort with ample elbow and legroom and an eye towards reduced vibration and noise. Other key features common to both models include:

  • CVT
  • 2WD/4WD/4WD Lock drive system
  • 10.5″ of ground clearance
  • 25″ tires on steel wheels
  • Four wheel independent suspension with A-Arms front and rear and a front sway bar
  • Dual piston disc brakes
  • Halogen headlights and LED tail lights
  • Electric power assist steering
  • Seating for two
  • ROPS
  • Pre-wiring for accessories
  • Digital instrument gauge
  • Horn

There are already a fair number of accessories available for the vehicles including various bumpers, guards, windshields, roofs, full doors and some lighting options. For work related tasks a front winch, snow plow and electro-hydraulic power dump bed are available.

A quick check of the SVR vehicle database puts these vehicles in the same class as Can Am Defender models, the Cushman Hauler 4×4 Diesel, the Cub Cadet Volunteer and Intimidator Classic models. Learn more: Cat.com

 

Textron Recalls Arctic Cat Wildcat UTVs

2017 Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail SE

The 2017 Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail SE is being recalled due to a winch issue.

2017 Arctic Cat wildcat Sport SE

The 2017 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport SE is being recalled as well.

Textron Specialized Vehicles recently announced the recall of approximately 300 model year 2017 Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail SE and Wildcat Sport SE utility vehicles as well as approximately 3,000 winch accessory kits sold for 2014 to 2017 Wildcat Trail and Wildcat Sport UTVs. The winch solenoid can overheat and pose a fire hazard. Owners should stop using the vehicles and contact Arctic Cat to schedule a free repair. Arctic Cat can be contacted at 800-279-6851 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or online at www.arcticcat.com and then click on Product Recall for more information.

This is a small recall but unique in that it is more a recall of the winch accessory than the vehicle themselves as the recalled winches outnumber the recalled vehicles 10 to 1.

The following are the recall details from the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Name of product:  Arctic Cat ROVs with winches

Hazard:  The winch solenoid located under the operator seat can overheat, posing a fire hazard.

Remedy:  Repair

Recall date: November 16, 2017

Recall number:  18-037
Recall Details

Description:  This recall involves all 2017 Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail SE (Special Edition) and Wildcat Sport SE  ROVs with winch solenoids installed as original equipment and winch accessory kits sold separately for use on 2014 through 2017Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport and Wildcat Trail ROVs.  The ROVs have four wheels, side-by-side seating for two people, and have a black chassis. “Wildcat Trail” or “Wildcat Sport” is printed on each side of the vehicle. In addition, Special Edition ROVs have “SE” printed on each side.

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Arctic Cat to schedule a free repair. Arctic Cat is contacting all known purchasers directly.

Incidents/Injuries:  The firm has received 49 reports of winch solenoid failure, with five resulting in fires. No injuries have been reported.

Sold At:  Arctic Cat dealers nationwide from February 2017 through August 2017 for about $17,000 for the ROVs with the winch accessory kits installed. The winch accessory kits were also sold separately from December 2013 through August 2017 for between $200 and $600.

Manufacturer(s):  Arctic Cat Inc., of Thief River Falls, Minn., a subsidiary of Textron Specialized Vehicles, of Augusta, Ga.

Manufactured In:  United States

Units:  About 300 ROVs and 3,000 winch accessory kits (In addition, 124 were sold in Canada)

Learn more:  CPSC.gov

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