The gasoline exodus isn’t just about cars and trucks anymore. These days it seems like everything is starting to get a battery-powered variant, and that includes vehicles that spend most of their time off the beaten path. On Monday, off-road vehicle maker Polaris announced that it has penned an exclusive 10-year deal with electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero to build its own electrically driven fleet of four-wheelers UTVs, and more.
The agreement includes a target date of 2025 to spin up an electrified offering which slots neatly into Polaris’ core product segments. That means its off-road utility vehicles like the Ranger and RZR, snowmobiles and even its three-wheeled Slingshot are likely to receive the new power plant technology. It’s also worth mentioning that Polaris owns several smaller brands, including Indian Motorcycles, meaning that it could be possible to see the technology from Zero’s electric sport touring bikes be transplanted into Indian’s future offerings.
Despite what you might think, this isn’t Polaris’ first dabble into electrification. In 2011, the brand acquired a company called Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) who built a bubbly golf cart-esque vehicle powered by batteries, slotted “between a golf car and a van.” Polaris claims to have built and sold over a billion dollars worth of EVs over the past decade, yet it has still chosen to partner with Zero given the company’s recent popularity in the alternative propulsion motorcycle community.
“Zero Motorcycles’ pioneering electrification experience, proven leadership and electric powertrain technologies are unmatched in the market,” wrote Polaris CEO Scott Wine in a statement on the partnership. “We believe this transformative partnership will enable us to leapfrog technological hurdles around range and cost while providing a tremendous speed-to-market advantage—an instant offense. Leveraging the strengths of our teams and a shared culture of innovation and passion for this industry, Polaris and Zero will collaborate to shape the future of powersports.”
So if Polaris already had GEM, why did it need to partner with Zero to expand its product offerings?
According to The Verge, Wine believes that Zero has the best energy density of “any automotive company.” Given that the estimated range on a GEM vehicle tops out at just 98 miles, it seems that Polaris is reaching out to Zero for the right kind of help.
The biggest question is whether or not customers will be jumping at the opportunity to purchase an electric adaptation of their favorite off-road vehicle. A gasoline-powered variant presents outdoor-goers the opportunity to refuel with a simple can of gas, whereas a battery-powered unit would be limited to the length of an extension cord (or a generator, which isn’t exactly easy to carry). It’s worth considering that this might be a moot point soon enough, especially as vehicles like the all-electric Ford F-150 and Tesla Cybertruck plan to pack onboard battery storage to charge toys on-the-go.
Polaris says that the first vehicles emerging from the partnership will hit roads and trails by the end of 2021.
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