Arcimoto and the Eugene Springfield Fire Department in Oregon started the first pilot program for the Rapid Responder vehicle. The Rapid Responder is a variation of the Arcimoto FUV designed specifically for first responders like fire, police and campus security departments. The three-wheeled, electric powered vehicle for emergency response offers a low carbon, small-footprint and lower cost option to traditional vehicles.
Rapid Responder Features
Arcimoto will disclose pricing and full specifications for the vehicle later this year when full production begins. As of now key specs include:
75 mph top speed
100 city mile range
Roof-mounted equipment rack
Rear cargo compartment
360-degree scene lights
This vehicle should find a nice niche in fire, police and security applications. The higher speed and range is an advantage compared to some of the first responder/security vehicles that the golf car and other low speed vehicle manufacturers offer. On the down side those four-wheel vehicles can carry a full stretcher. However, the Rapid Responder’s speed and small footprint should allow first responders to access the emergency scene faster. This can prove critical in many situations.
My colleague, Stephen Metzger, attended the 2020 PGA Show in Florida. His observations of the latest products on display “…suggests a new generation of diverse vehicles going well beyond the golf market. In general terms the emerging market that trends will play into is that of urban/suburban mobility. “ He lays out his observations and what they say about the strategies of the three major manufacturers in a new article.
PGA Show: Big Three Strategies
Club Car is looking towards connectivity and telematics technologies for new market opportunities. The company is monitoring developments in the urban/suburban mobility market. According to management, Club Car’s lithium battery powertrain and Onward PTV platform positions the company well to take advantage of new opportunities .
E-Z-GO is leaning on their latest technology advancements like their first to market (of the big three) lithium powertrain for fleet and PTVs, their IntelliBrake technology, AC drive, 72-volt powertrain and new quieter and more efficient EX1 gas engine. In addition, they continue to monitor the urban and suburban mobility markets.
Yamaha emphasized their new, fully independent suspension which is likely a precursor to a lithium powered vehicle. The absence of much heavier lead acid batteries has significant implications for the suspension setup and vehicle ride quality.
Other PGA Show Insights
Automotive features such as touchscreen LED displays and rearview cameras are continuing evidence that more automotive features are becoming standard in PTVs. The trend fits nicely with the ongoing development of the urban/suburban mobility market. A slice of this market includes low-speed vehicles and PTV like vehicles. Manufacturers also displayed scotters and golf specific, electric powered vehicles. The technology of the latter category could likely be adapted to the urban/suburban mobility markets.
New urban and micro mobility technology creates a potential challenge to the existing players in the PTV market. This technology is wide ranging from electric skateboards and electric bikes to three-wheeled and larger autonomous vehicles. While the technology is typically discussed in the context of the urban environment, it can also be well suited to the gated and vacation community markets. These alternative mobility technologies do not provide a head-on, direct competition to PTVs, but neither are they merely tangential. They can challenge the existing PTV players by taking multiple, smaller slices of the market pie. In addition, they are attracting a host of new players and new investment.
Electric Bikes & Scooters
The gated and vacation community skews older so skateboards are probably out, and at first glance electric bikes and electric scooters (Vespa like) may not seem to make sense. However, electric bikes and scooters can offer a slice of the market an alternative transportation experience. An electric pedal assist bike can provide exercise without as much exertion as a traditional bike. In addition, if you already bike, it extends your existing trip range and experiences. Scooters offer an alternative to PTVs for quick single or two-person trips. This technology can also be applied in the form of a bike or scooter share program, providing access to the whole community. A share program would seem well suited to a planned community that has a large enough population and well planned out destination points.
They are fun to ride and, in the case of bikes, can provide additional exercise opportunities. They are a less expensive alternative, especially if you need an occasional second mode of transportation and have a small footprint. Furthermore, their speed range fits well in the low speed planned community environment. They can also be used to venture outside the community with likely less restrictions than PTVs.
On the other hand these modes of transportation have some drawbacks that limits their appeal. First, they can only accommodate one or maybe two people in the case of scooters. They have limited carrying capacity for running errands. They also do not provide any protection from the elements or as much collision protection from other vehicles as a PTV does. In addition, older folks may not feel as physically capable of operating these vehicles. Although, the low speed and well planned roadways can ameliorate this issue to some degree.
Three-wheelers & Autonomous Vehicles
On the other end of the spectrum you have larger multi-passenger vehicles that provide a more direct competition to existing PTVs. Vehicles like the FUV can carry two passengers or one with cargo. As a three-wheeler, the FUV can operate at higher speeds and has no restrictions for venturing outside of communities on public roads. At the same time, this vehicle can be speed limited for golf course and planned community use. With autonomous vehicles planned community residents could displace at least some of their PTV usage, and possibly all of it if the the service is robust enough.
With the ability to travel from golf course to community roads to public roads, the three-wheeled vehicle offers greater versatility than PTVs. Capable of higher speeds, it also has greater functionality than PTVs for certain use scenarios. For autonomous vehicles, the low-speed, well-defined and relatively limited planned community road networks offer an ideal environment. For residents less inclined or capable of driving a PTV, they provide a method to maintain mobility.
The FUV is currently much more expensive than PTVs and even LSVs. Therefore, customers may not find the increased versatility and functionality worth the price. They also are limited to two passengers, and as a result are less useful for family outings. For autonomous vehicles the technology is still in the development phase. In addition, some customers may prefer the convenience, customization and the statement made by owning a PTV. Furthermore, the cost of this type of service is not currently known.
New Players, Investment & Disruptive Innovation
An additional aspect of urban and micro mobility that PTV manufacturers must contend with is the increased number of market players, capital investment and disruptive product innovations that the technology brings. For example, Harley Davidson and Jeep have revealed at least prototype electric bikes. Completely new companies like Arcimoto have entered the market. Tech companies like Alphabet (Google) and traditional auto manufacturers are developing highly sophisticated autonomous vehicle technology. In addition, you have ride share companies.
PTV manufacturers are potentially at a disadvantage because they have neither the focus of disruptive startups or the financial resources of much larger companies. On the other hand, they do possess strong knowledge of the market and a distribution network to serve the market. They also have experience in developing and manufacturing electric vehicles in a highly competitive environment.
One strategy for PTV manufacturers to take is to start developing new mobility platforms themselves. The question is whether they have enough resources and commitment. They would have to balance maintaining their current product lines while trying to introduce entirely new a category of products. Another strategy would be to leverage their distribution and marketing expertise by acquiring or partnering with new market entrants to launch to product categories. They could also decide to keep improving their existing products and manufacturing efficiency. As a result, they could maintain or lower prices while increasing the value of their products. Therefore, new entrants could find market entry to difficult or limited to niche markets. However, compared to the other two strategies, this strategy offers less upside. In addition, it still leaves them vulnerable to a disruptive technology. The first two strategies provides the opportunity to potentially expand into urban markets.
My colleague Stephen Metzger discusses Club Car’s product development strategy in a new article. In particular, he analyzes Club Car’s partnership with AEV Technologies and the resulting offering, the Club Car 411 utility vehicle. Rather than develop the vehicle in-house, which Club Car has the capabilities to do, they decided to go outside. Is management embracing a new approach to product development or is this just a one-off exercise? In addition, an interview with Brian Rott, President Cart Mart in California, discusses how the 411 fits in the market.
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 since June, 2019 are summarized below.
The majority of the ordinances expand the use of golf cars, LSVs, or UTVs on city streets.
Most of the legislative activity is occurring in the Midwest
Road Use Regulation By Location
Wisconsin – Title fees for low speed vehicles will increase from $62 to $157, similar to other vehicles.
Barnegat Light, NJ – The Council, after earlier tabling an ordinance that would allow the use of golf cars on certain city streets, have decided to not pursue the issue further. A critical issue was that the vehicles would have to cross a higher speed road, which would require an exception to state law.
Brazil, IN – Residents registered nearly 100 golf carts and off-road UTVs since an ordinance passed in February, 2019.
Wakefield, IN – The City Council is considering an ordinance to allow golf cars on certain city streets. The police chief and a councilman are looking at similar ordinances and potentially expanding the ordinance to other types of vehicles.
Paola, KS – Starting in January, 2020 residents will be able to drive UTVs on city streets with posted speed limits that are 45 mph or less. Regulations require that vehicles have lights, turn signals and reflectors, drivers have a valid license and vehicles be registered.
St. Joseph, MI – The city commissioners are considering allowing residents to drive golf cars on city streets in the Harbor Shores, Edgewater and Ridgeway neighborhoods.
Newport, RI – The Newport Jitney provides free, advertiser supported rides around town on two low-speed vehicles that seat six and eight passengers.
Glynn County, GA – A new county ordinance goes into effect in October that will allow golf cars on certain streets. The ordinance has different regulations for LSVs vs. PTVs. A key difference is that LSVs can travel on streets with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less while PTVs can travel only on 25 mph or less streets.
Perry Village, OH – The Village Council passed an ordinance to allow LSVs, golf cars, UTVs and mini-trucks to be driven on local low speed streets. The vehicles must be inspected, licensed and have certain safety equipment.
Oregon-based Arcimoto recently started production of their Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) to meet pre-order demand for 4,100 vehicles. Technically a motorcycle, the FUV is an electric powered three-wheeled vehicle that seats two. Many states have a special classification for three wheeled vehicles and only require a regular driver’s license to operate the vehicle. The current FUV Evergreen edition costs $19,900 but the company hopes in the future that volume production will reduce base model pricing to $12,000 and possibly below $10,000.
Arcimoto FUV Specs
The Arcimoto FUV is essentially a trike with two wheels up front and one in the rear. Each wheel up front has an electric motor. The vehicle has a 19.2 kWh lithium ion battery pack for a range of just over 100 miles and a top speed of 75 mph. The FUV has handlebar steering with a twist throttle and finger activated regenerative braking. Foot operated hydraulic brakes on all three wheels augments the regenerative braking. Other specs include:
Two USB ports
Lockable rear storage
The company is also developing a one person delivery vehicle and an emergency responder vehicle based on the same platform.
The Arcimoto FUV satisfies a need for a small, energy efficient vehicle that can be driven locally. Even though the FUV can operate at highway speeds I believe the sweet spot for the vehicle will be on roads up with speed limits up to 50 mph. Gated communities and vacation destinations that already allow low speed vehicles (LSVs) and golf cars will be a key market.
The problem with this market currently is that LSVs and golf cars can only go 20 to 25 mph and are often restricted to certain public roads based on speed limits and local ordinances. Classified as a motorcycle and with the power to operate at higher speeds, the FUV avoids this issue. This combination greatly increases the functionality of the FUV. The FUV with a speed limited setting can go from golf course to gated community to higher speed public roads. Therefore, the FUV is appropriate for a wider range of activities.
I currently see three main challenges that may limit the FUVs appeal. The first is consumer acceptance of driving a three-wheeled vehicle with handlebar steering. This is different than many consumer’s traditional driving experience. The second is price. The company should target the $10,000 to $13,000 price range to be competitive with LSVs, PTVs and golf cars. Although, the increased functionality of the vehicle is a mitigating factor that could allow for a pricing premium. The third is that the vehicle is only two passenger, so it may have limited appeal for families or larger groups.
The FUV is a direct challenge to the LSVs and more importantly the personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) that have become a key growth market for the traditional golf car companies. The decline and stagnation in fleet golf car market has forced these companies to target the utility vehicle and PTV markets for growth. (LSVs have largely been relegated to college and corporate campuses with some personal transportation use.) This could become the classic case of the outsider coming in and disrupting a market.
Where are the golf companies?
There is no reason the golf car companies could not have developed this vehicle first and they certainly have the resources and time to create a vehicle of their own. However, in the past these companies have missed opportunities such as the utility vehicle market for which they were well positioned. In addition, the FUV could serve as an alternative to a second or third automobile for running local errands or short one or two person commuting.
What Does The Future Hold
It will be interesting to see what kind of uptake the consumer version has. Recreational vehicles like the Can-Am Spyder and Polaris Slingshot have not completely taken off and remained niche. However, they are more recreational and less of a practical and green transportation alternative than the FUV. I think the delivery version of the FUV might be the sleeper product. Given concerns about urban congestion, pollution and sustainability, these vehicles could become a popular option for last mile logistics in crowded cities. The urban environment could play to the vehicle’s strengths of smaller size and zero emission powertrain while mitigating weaknesses such as limited top speed and driving range.
Earlier this year Club Car introduced the Club Car 411 utility vehicle, an all-electric vehicle for cargo services and low speed logistics. The 411 is the result of a partnership between Club Car and AEV Technologies, a manufacturer of light-duty battery-electric vehicles. The partnership combines AEV’s expertise in design and manufacturing with the dealer network and brand power of Club Car.
Club Car 411 Target Market
The Club Car 411 is targeting the space between full-sized trucks and smaller golf car based utility trucks. The partners designed the vehicles to have a lower cost of acquisition, operation and overall ownership while meeting the demand for clean energy vehicles. Typical uses would be on corporate and college campuses, in warehouses and as part of municipal fleets.
The Club Car 411 comes in three basic configurations: a van box, a pickup with sides and a flatbed. The vehicles have a curb weight of approximately 2,100 lbs depending on the configuration and a payload capacity of 1,100 lbs. As an LSV the top speed is 25 mph and it has a range of 50 miles. A 10 Kw, 13.4 hp AC motor paired with a 240A AC controller powers the rear-wheel vehicle. The six sealed lead acid batteries provide a range of up to 50 miles.
Standard Features & Options
Standard features include a backup camera, 7″ LCM display, reinforced ABS body panels and cabin heating. The 411 has a reinforced steel chassis, 4-wheel, hydraulic disc brakes and power assist steering. Options include fleet management systems including GPS and geofencing.
This is a curious move by Club Car. Clearly the vehicle fits with their existing customer base and dealer network, but rather than develop the vehicle themselves they partnered with AEV Technologies. I speculate that the partnership reduces Club Car’s development costs and associated risks. For AEV, the partnership gives them access to a large customer base. AEV Technologies also makes a three wheeled vehicle similar to the Arcimoto FUV. Therefore, if the FUV makes inroads into Club Car’s PTV market then they could have a ready for market vehicle to compete against it.
Yamaha Golf Car is recalling approximately 16,000 vehicles because of an issue with the USB port creates a fire hazard. The recall involves model year 2017 through 2019 vehicles including Drive2 fleet, Adventurer Two and some UMAX models. The recall affects both electric and gas powered models. The following recall details are from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Yamaha Golf Car Recall Details
Name of product: Yamaha golf cars, personal transportation and specialty vehicles
Hazard: The module that regulates power to the vehicle’s USB ports can overheat and melt, posing a fire hazard.
Recall date: August 28, 2019
Consumer contact: Yamaha toll-free at 866-747-4027 anytime or online at www.yamahagolfcar.com and click on “CPSC Recall Alerts” for more information.
Description: This recall involves the following model year 2016 through 2018 gas and electric-powered golf cars, personal transportation and specialty vehicles. The vehicles were sold in various colors including blue, green, red, white, tan and silver. The model and serial number can be found on a label under the seat on the left or right side.
Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the USB charging device in the recalled vehicles and contact a Yamaha golf car dealer to schedule a free repair. Yamaha is contacting all registered owners directly..
Incidents/Injuries: Yamaha has received five reports of associated fire incidents and 100 reports of a melted USB voltage-reducer module. No injuries have been reported.
Sold At:Exclusively at Yamaha golf car dealers nationwide from June 2016 through June 2019 for between $6,000 and $11,000.
Manufacturer(s): Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America, of Newnan, Ga.
Distributor(s): Yamaha Golf-Car Company, of Kennesaw, Ga.
Assembled in: U.S.
Recall number: 19-774
Yamaha recalled some of these vehicles previously because of an issue with the accelerator pedal. While this recall is large, given Yamaha Golf Cars’ total sales, it is small in comparison to that previous recall which involved 145,000 vehicles. Smallvehicleresource.com maintains a list of small, task-oriented vehicle recalls.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently detailed recalls for two different Polaris UTVs, the Ranger EV and the 2019 RZR XP 4 Turbo S. The Ranger EV recall covers model years 2015 to 2019. Polaris previously announced the RZR XP 4 Turbo S in January, 2019 during the government shutdown.
Ranger EV Recall Details
According to the CPSC recall information an incorrectly wired chassis harness on the Ranger EV can cause a bad throttle control signal. As a result, there can be an unexpected acceleration. The recall involves approximately 3,900 vehicles sold from February 2014 through January 2019. The 2015 to 2019 model year vehicles were available in avalanche gray and pursuit camo. There have been eight reports of unexpected accelerations including one incident resulting in injuries. Accordingly, consumers should immediately stop using the vehicles and contact a Polaris dealer to schedule a free repair. In addition, Polaris is contacting registered owners directly.
RZR XP 4 Turbo S Recall Details
The Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo S recall includes model year 2019 vehicles which were sold in blue and red. Potentially, the brakes can fail and cause a crash. To date, Polaris has received 11 reports of brake failures, resulting in one crash and one rollover incident. Accordingly, owners should immediately stop using the vehicles and contact a Polaris dealer to schedule a free repair. In addition, Polaris is contacting registered owners directly. The CPSC did not estimate how many vehicles are involved in the recall. Dealers sold the vehicles from December 2017 through January 2019.
Smallvehicleresource.com maintains a list of small, task-oriented vehicle recalls.
The Rungu Juggernaut MDV Overland is a new three-wheeled e-bike designed for off-road use and as an alternative to ATVs. The e-bike can tow up to 300 lbs and has a 350 lb payload capacity. The drivetrain is a Bafang 1000 Mid Drive with a removable 52V 15 AH Li-ion battery. The dual battery option provides 34 miles of unassisted range. The MSRP is $5,499 but the standard model with one battery is $3,399.
Electrek Rungu e-Bike Review
Electrek.com posted a largely positive review. Some key takeaways from the review.
The bike handles a variety of difficult terrain well from soft sand to ruts to stony ground
Climbs obstacles very well
Performs much better than a two-wheeled fat tire e-bike and more like an ATV but weighs less than 100 lbs
Easy to learn how to ride
Braking power and three-wheel stability handled extremely steep downhills very well
The advent of lower cost lithium batteries and improved electric motors is ushering in a new era of mobility. While much of the focus has been on urban mobility, the Rungu e-bike is an example of the technology making inroads elsewhere. Will the Rungu make significant inroads into the ATV market? Probably not, but it may be able to establish a sizable niche. Producing at higher volume could reduce cost and they could become a formidable substitute. Another possibility is that the Rungu creates a whole new vehicle category.
From a strategic point of view, the Rungu symbolizes a larger threat to the STOV industry. The threat of an industry that may be too complacent and lack vision. As a whole, the industry has not shown great interest in new mobility concepts. although well positioned, STOV companies run the risk of ceding this opportunity to startups and entrants from other industries. Over time, these companies can leverage the manufacturing volume and brand awareness built in new mobility markets, to pursue traditional STOV markets. Is it that far fetched that a company might target urban mobility and then the golf fleet or gated community markets and then head off-road or on campus? Or that Rungu might develop more capable and less expensive e-bike alternatives to encroach further into off-road vehicle segments?