Tata Launches Electric Mini Truck

Indian manufacturer Tata is planning on launching an electric mini truck based on their Ace light commercial vehicle in March 2011.  The UK will be the first market followed by Scandinavia.

The zero emission Ace is powered by an 85 Ah battery that produces 25kW of maximum power and a top speed of 25mph. With only a 25 mile range, on the European Combined Drive Cycle, the Ace EV is designed primarily for use by Local Authorities in town centres, parks and university campuses.

The vehicle will initially be sold directly to customers from the manufacturer.  Learn more:  Articledatabase.com

New Transmission To Improve Small EV Performance

Fallbrook Technologies NuVinci Transmission

Fallbrook Technologies NuVinci Transmission Technology

Fallbrook Technologies and TEAM Industries are collaborating to produce a new transmission for small electric vehicles such as golf cars and LSVs.  They will be supplying Tomberlin with the new transmissions starting with a prototype for their Anvil LSV.  Fallbrook is bringing their NuVinci transmission technology to the collaboration while TEAM Industries has experience in designing and manufacturing drivetrains for small recreational and off-road vehicles.  I spoke with Tomberlin and while they do not have a set date for an Anvil with the new technology to hit dealer showrooms they are looking to move to market as soon as possible.

The NuVinci design is similar to “toroidal” continuously variable transmission but Fallbrook CEO claims states that the NuVinci design “…has about half the number of parts as a typical CVT, and that it will ultimately be able to produce its EV powertrain for about half the price.”   Fallbrook refers to the Nuvinci as a variable planetary transmission (CVP), which uses a set of tilting and rotating balls to effect a continuously variable transmission ratio.  Last month Fallbrook reported that it raised about $39 million in equity financing, giving the San Diego-based company a total of about $95 million in financing since 2000.  Learn more:  Autoobserver.com

On a related note TEAM Industries recently received their 10th patent for electronics and control algorithm for TEAM’s SmartLocker electronic traction control differential system which is used for light automotive, recreational and off-road vehicles.

On surfaces with good traction, a vehicle equipped with the SmartLocker system will stay in 2-wheel drive with a turf-friendly, easy steering, open differential. On slippery surfaces, the system will detect the amount of slip and automatically decide whether to send power to the front wheels and decide how tight to lock the differential(s).

Management reports that the technology will be in a vehicle in the spring of this year.  Learn more:  Bemidjipioneer.com

Curtis Industries Introduces Cab System For Kawasaki Teryx

Curtis Industries Modular Cab System for the Kawasaki Teryx

Curtis Industries Modular Cab System for the Kawasaki Teryx

Curtis Industries, LLC has introduced a modular cab system for the Kawasaki Teryx utility vehicle that allows rapid transformation from a fully enclosed cab to an open-air ride in 60 seconds. The Curtis Rapid Convertible System (RCS) allows the user to choose one or all components for maximum flexibility as the weather changes. Learn more:  blogs.4wheeloffroad.com

What’s Cooking on the STOV

Highlighting some of the many applications for small, task-oriented vehicles

Pheasant Gamekeeper UTV – Park House Pheasantries in the UK uses three Kubota RTV900’s to manage their gamekeeping operation which involves rearing up to 50,000 pheasants a year for small to large shoots.  The UTVs are used for a variety of tasks including game crop spraying with a front mounted sprayer, hauling feed, dumping gravel, pulling out stuck vehicles and transporting dogs.  Besides the horsepower, ground clearance and power steering the owner purchased the street legal version of the vehicle to provide additional flexibility.  Learn more:  Constructionnewsportal.com

LSV Police Patrol Vehicles – The Wetumpka Police Department in Alabama recently purchased two GEMs for use at community events and patrolling select neighborhoods.  Obtained with grant money, the department likes the smaller size and relatively silent vehicles for nighttime patrols and community events.  They also expect to save money on fuel and maintenance costs.  Learn more: Blog.al.com

Rural Real Estate Selling – A Wisconsin real estate agent specializing in selling properties for hunting, recreation and rural homes uses a Polaris Ranger to show clients around various properties.  The rural and sometimes large size of the tracts require a vehicle with off-road capabilities to provide clients with an up close look at the properties.  Learn more:  Wisconsin State Journal

Park MaintenanceWisconsin’s state parks department recently purchased 15 E-Ride electric vehicles from E-Ride Industries for cleaning and maintenance at parks around the state. Some units were customized with full-length aluminum enclosures to protect the payload.  Compared to the full-size trucks they replace, the vehicles cost less up front to purchase, have lower fuel costs, lower maintenance costs and a smaller carbon footprint.  In addition, the parks department has received positive feedback regarding the vehicles from park visitors.  Learn more:  WisBusiness.com

California Energy Commission EV Rebates

The California Air Resources Board recently announced that $2 million will be available for the California Energy Commission’s 2011 clean vehicle rebate program.  Unfortunately for the LSV market, only vehicles that can carry four passengers and operate at highway speeds will be eligible for the rebates.  Program managers report that in 2010 $1.4 million in vehicle rebates were distributed for 213 vehicles including:

  • 108 Zero Emission Vehicles (LEAFs, Tesla Roadsters, and a handful of Honda Clarity fuel cell cars)
  • 38 Commercial Zero Emission Vehicles (from Smith, Navistar, and EVI)
  • 30 Neighborhood Electric Vehicles
  • 37 Zero Emission Motorcycles

Learn more:  Plugincars.com

Oregon Study Looks At LSV Impact on Transportation Infrastructure & Safety

A report published in December from the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) investigated the impact of LSVs on transportation infrastructure and safety on Oregon.

The purpose of the research was to determine positive and negative impacts that LSVs, which include Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) and Medium-Speed Electric Vehicles (MSEVs), are likely to have for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon communities. In addition, the research explores whether adjustments in current state regulations are needed to ensure that LSVs do not negatively impact road safety and traffic operations, or expose the LSV operators to undue risk.

The results of the research included three major recommendations:

  • The State of Oregon’s regulations for LSVs should be amended such that LSVs are limited to public roadways with a maximum operating speed of 25 mph, and they are restricted to crossing higher-speed roadways at four-way stops or traffic-controlled intersections.
  • Local transportation authorities should work with LSV users and members of the bicycle community to develop parallel or secondary low-speed transportation networks that connect residential neighborhoods with major activity centers that include education, employment, retail, medical and recreational facilities.
  • LSV users need to be educated about the safety risks of LSVs, in particular those that have a “car-like” appearance, and the safety risks of modifying the speed regulator on LSVs.

Learn more:  Transportation Research Board – OTREC Report

John Deere Gator Named Official UTV of Best in the Desert Racing Association

John Deere Gator XUV 825i crossover UTV

John Deere Gator XUV 825i crossover UTV

The John Deere Gator™ has been named the “Official UTV” of the Best in the Desert Racing Association for the 2011-2012 Best in the Desert Racing Series.  The sponsorship will be used to highlight Deere’s Gator XUV crossover utility vehicles.  As the term crossover implies, these latest additions to the Gator product lineup were introduced to appeal to customers that straddle the work and recreation segments.  In the past few years the Gator has lost market share as the recreation and combination work/recreation segments of the market have expanded quickly.  Learn more:  SXSNews.com

Are Electric LSVs Taking Market Share From Gas UTVs?

While I’ve come across many instances of gas and electric STOVs replacing full-size pickup trucks, I’ve seen fewer stories about electric LSVs replacing gas UTVs but in the past few weeks I came across two. In both cases the electric vehicle offered cost advantages and a better set of features for the end use application.

The first is from Albany, GA where the local police department replaced a 12 year old gas powered Kawasaki Mule with a GEM for use in parking enforcement.  Learning from the local US Marine base experience and evaluation, the department estimates that they will save about $6,000 a year in gas, oil change and maintenance expense each year.  The GEM also has better features for parking enforcement including an enclosed cab, rear and side mirrors, warning lights, a fan for summer use and a heater for winter use. Learn more:  Albanyherald.com

In the second instance, River Falls Municipal Utilities in Wisconsin replaced a John Deere Gator with a Polaris NEV.  In this case, they tested the vehicle for several weeks by performing tasks around the wastewater treatment plant.  The utility also received a $5,009 grant from Wisconsin Electric Power.  Management sees the vehicle being used for both off-road and on-road uses such as driving downtown for supplies or town meetings.  A cab enclosure will be purchased in the future to enable year round use.  Learn more:  Riverfallsjournal.com

Company News

Curtis Wins Award For Cab System – Curtis Industries was recently chosen by Car & Driver Magazine to receive the SEMA Global Media Award for the  PathPro SS cab system for the Polaris Ranger UTV.  The year round enclosure can easily mount to the factory installed Roll-Over Protection System.  Learn more:  blog.curtisindustries.net

Case IH Announces UTV Rebate – Effective as of January 1st of this year, Case IH added their Scout utility vehicles to the rebate program program for Iowa Farm Bureau members.  Purchasers of new utility vehicles will be eligible for a $300 rebate.  Learn more:  Iowafarmbureau.com

Kandi Technolgies Trades On NASDAQ Global Market – As of last Monday, January 11th, Kandi Technologies switched from being traded on the NASDAQ Capital Market to the NASDAQ Global Market.  The Chinese exporter of the CoCo LSV as well as gas and electric UTVs, ATVs, go-karts and other small, task-oriented vehicles trades under the symbol KNDI.  Learn more:  Motorsportsnewswire.wordpress.com

E-Z-GO Partners With Dixie Sales Company To Expand Service Network – E-Z-GO has partnered with Dixie Sales Company to offer qualified outdoor power equipment dealers the opportunity to become E-Z-GO authorized sales and service centers.  As such, they will be able to offer parts and accessories for E-Z-GO and Cushman vehicles.  Dixie Sales Company is an independent, full service, value added distributor.  Learn more:  Benzinga.com

Technology News

Traction Device Patent – I came across a recently awarded patent for a system for improving the traction of ATVs and utility in loose terrain.  In brief, a conical structure is attached to the wheels that helps add traction in loose terrain conditions but does not interfere with driving the vehicle in other conditions. US Patent 7,850,252

Drawing of Loose Terrain Traction Device

Drawing Of Loose Terrain Traction Device


Loose Terrain Traction Device

Patented Loose Terrain Traction Device Shown on an ATV

Learn more:  Full patent at US Patent Office


Wireless Charging System Installed – New Zealand based UniServices Ltd and Ove Arup & Partners, through their UK based subsidiary, HaloIPT, have installed the world’s first wireless charging system for electric vehicles in London.  The inductive power technology (IPT) allows vehicles equipped with receiver pads to automatically be charged when parked over transmission pads.  The technology is based upon magnetic fields and can work under asphalt, submerged in water or under snow.  Management expects to develop roadway embedded systems in the future to charge vehicles while they are moving.  Learn more:  Voxy.co.nz