The off-road world changed about ten years ago. Side-by-sides (SxS), or UTVs (Utility Terrain Vehicles), were about to hit the market en masse. In response to market demand, in turn, it helped a massive boom. ATV riders noted a high level of comfort and usability over their handlebar-driven brethren. Suddenly they were the hot item in the four-wheeling world. As the number on sale increased, popularity skyrocketed. Engine choices proliferated accordingly. Long past the days of the 450cc, ~20 horsepower Yamaha Rhino, you can now walk into a Can-Am dealership and buy a 195-horsepower, turbocharged Maverick X3. That’s not only more horsepower than my Miata. And one of the multiple choices that can claim such.
Can-Am, though, isn’t the household name for SxSs. That would be Polaris Industries. The manufacturer’s RZR side-by-side line, in conjunction with its Ranger and General UTV products, dominates the market.
Last week, Polaris announced a partnership with Zero Motorcycles. Famous for bringing electricity to the dual-sport market, Zero has since expanded to street bikes. And now, their expertise in electric powertrains will make its way to a very different field: Four wheels.
rEV’d up is the name of the 10-year partnership between Polaris and Zero. The goal is to bring a new line of electrified, battery-powered side-by-sides to market by the end of 2021. Polaris intends for each of its core products to have an electric version. Sounds a lot like Volvo. Interestingly, Polaris has dabbled in the electric vehicles before with the Ranger EV. But not like this.
Off-road vehicles aren’t exactly known for their environmental friendliness. And though electric isn’t totally faultless, it will help in reducing greenhouse gases and carbon emissions. (Yes, I know there are emissions from production/manufacturing, distribution, and widespread charging) This is especially helpful in areas that are focusing on reducing what is emitted into the atmosphere within the confines of a park or locale in which trails run.
I’m a big proponent of electric vehicles and have long said that an electric off-roader would make all the sense in the world. Now, it’s happening. Riding through the woods in near-silence will allow occupants to enjoy nature in an entirely new way. And we all know that electric vehicles provide instant and massive torque. There will be limitations, of course. Range anxiety will be a worry until people become familiar with managing battery life. This will be remedied with an increase in (read: the implementation of) charging stations for OHV use, both trail-side and at the trailhead of off-road parks.
All-in-all, this is a fantastic partnership. Electric is really starting to hit the off-road world. This partnership has the potential to finally bring the SxS/UTV field into the electric era. I can’t wait to experience it for myself.