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The Future Is Hybrid

Published: 8/24/2016 Author: Stephen Metzger, Managing Director, Small Vehicle Resource, LLC Category: Market Insights

The vast majority of small, task-oriented vehicles (STOVs) are either gas-powered or electric-powered. The hybrid is not a rarity, but it remains on the sidelines when it comes to market share. Yet, this drive train answers so many issues. In particular, it answers the issue of range anxiety that afflicts electric-powered vehicles and it answers the issue of exhaust fumes in closed operating environments. It also answers the issue of noise levels in others.

In various articles over the years, and in our market research reports, I have made the argument that hybrids were a logical choice for consumers and commercial buyers in so many instances. However, although hybrids have been a mainstay in the hunter market, they have not been a major factor in other markets. There appear to be a at least two reasons for this. First, there is no mainstream counterpart to hybrids; that is, with all due respect to certain models, you don't see hybrid car sales as a significant proportion (3%-4%) of monthly or annual on-road vehicle purchases, i.e., automobiles and light trucks; and you don't see hybrids on golf courses or in gated communities, where the electric power predominates. In other words, there is no significant transportation or fleet market where hybrids have a significant position that might provide psychological assurance or emotional impetus for the average buyer in the STOV market. In more other words, this a market where hybrids, as a drive train design, have to prove themselves to the buyer (that is, beyond the confines of the hunter market). It could be that this is the time.

Martex Global introduces the War Horse

Martex Global's new hybrid War Horse, featuring 4-wheel drive, dual direct drive 38 hp electric motors, and range extending generator. Martex Global Enterprise, LLC is based in Fort Worth, TX, and has for many years manufactured and sold the HuntVe™ line of all-electric 4 X 4 hunting vehicles. The company, under the direction of Ben King, President and CEO, is introducing an all-electric and hybrid line under the War Horse™ brand. The War Horse is similar to the HuntVe, as a four-wheel drive vehicle, but as King explains, "Unlike the HuntVe 4x4 line which is marketed to, and targets only, the hunting industry, the War Horse 4x4 has a broader appeal and speaks to commercial/ industrial/ government applications as well as the general trail riding and outdoor loving consumer." There are four models in the line, two all-electric, one of which is a crew-type vehicle, seating four, and two are hybrid vehicles, a two-seater and a four-seater crew model.

The hybrid models, as well as the all-electrics, feature dual, 38 hp, direct drive motors. As King explains, "We considered moving to a single motor with drive shaft like most of the electric 4x4 competitors, but despite the cost savings, found that a single motor electric 4x4 will not perform to our expectations, and it makes so much more noise." The expected range extension comes from a 480 cc gas generator, which can extend the range by approximately 30 miles. I note that the War Horse specs call for a 20 mile off-road range in electric mode. I added the italics because this looks very conservative for the vehicle when not in an off-road environment. Via the convenient on-board charger, the generator will keep the batteries charged for the extra mileage and can be used to recharge the batteries when not driving. In fact, the recharge time from a flat state of charge is only two hours, according to King.

War Horse Design Responds to the Voice of the Market

Martex has done its market research, which led from the HuntVe concept to the War Horse. King notes, "The War Horse was launched in response to a growing demand outside the hunting category. So we moved the platform from the “golf car” type foot print to a more traditional side x side UTV configuration." The new configuration included widening the vehicle and a lower the center of gravity. "This allowed us," King adds, "to move all models to a consumer-requested top speed of 25 mph."

Who is the likely competition? With regard to the hybrids, competitor models will come from Bad Boy Off-Road and American SportWorks. For the all-electrics you have the Polaris Ranger electric off-road and some of the Polaris GEM work models. Competitive advantage for the War Horse from the design aspect will be the dual direct drive with the power and torque of 38 hp electric motors, and the large 64- and 72-volt battery packs. Rack and pinion steering and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes will put the War Horse on the par of anything currently in the market place.

On paper the War Horse is a formidable animal. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to test drive the HuntVe. It was pretty awesome, and I think the vast majority of owners would agree. So, I look forward to another visit to Fort Worth in the near future to do the same with the War Horse. If the HuntVe is any indicator of what to expect from the new kid on the block, then the War Horse is going to be pretty remarkable as well.

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