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Electric ATV Pros and Cons

In 2002 I came saw an electric ATV ad in the fall/winter J.C.Penney catalog, on page 423 if you're a nostalgia buff, and I knew then that the sport ATV market would soon see the rise of Battery powered ATVs. The electric ATV ad contained a Yamaha Bear Tracker without the Yamaha logo. Underneath the $4000.00 price tag it said the ATV weighed just 200 lbs and came with four wheel disk brakes.

Electric ATV - Mythbusters

Seven years later the All Terrain Electric Vehicle, or ATEV, rivals its gas powered competitors in every category with one exception, the sport ATV market. Electric ATV popularity is on the rise and its use now dominates the golf course and most sporting events. You've probably seen an electric ATV being used by the maintenance staff at your local high school too.

Hunters prefer electric ATVs because noise reduction helps avoid scaring animals. Electric powered ATV are perfectly suited for work in crowded area where noise and pollution aren't welcome so their popularity comes as no surprise but why hasn't the electric ATV attained similar success in the sport ATV arena? Let's explore that a little.

In December of 2007 I shared a news story with you about Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters and his electric ATV project. Jamie called the battery powered EUV, which is short for Electric Utility Vehicle, Barefoot Model One. Jamie says: ‘A lot of people have a preconception that electric vehicles are slower than gas-powered vehicles. We're going to bust that myth' and bust it he did!

Electric ATV benefits

  • Zero emissions motor makes it easy on the environment
  • Ultra quiet ATV with only minimal noise at full speed
  • Rechargeable, eventually by using a solar panel
  • The engine is powerful enough to be used in a car
  • Less moving parts leads to a lower risk of engine failure

Imagine riding an ATV in the desert or remote area and you accidentally run out of gas. With a electric ATV, or battery powered EUV as Jamie likes to call it, you could just wait for the sun to recharge the battery via solar panel and continue on your way. Technology isn't quite there yet but it's not far away, actually the electric vehicle company Ruff and Tuff re-launched the Ruff and Tumble line of electric ATVs in early 2008. Take a trip to your local ATV dealer, you might be surprised at how many electric ATVs are now on the market.

People inherently believe that electric vehicles are slower than their gas powered counterparts. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of the popular television show MythBusters have put those beliefs to the test. They were busy riding ATVs and filming for the ATV related episode in Lake County in the summer of 2008 according to the Record Bee.

I have to say that I love the Mythbusters series. They put things people claim to be true to the test, often in spectacular fashion. I usually agree with their findings but not always. Full disclosure – Jamie Hyneman is involved in the development of an electric powered ATV (Model One). Don't assume that the show was biased however, if anything his knowledge of electric and lithium battery ATVs benefited the show.

The Results: While the gas powered ATV was faster it was not as efficient according to various performance tests and the notion that electric ATVs are slow was put to rest, they are surprisingly fast. Battery technology continues to improve and there is a very real chance that over the next decade electric ATVs will become much more common.

Benefits: The most obvious benefit of an electric ATV is that it produces no emissions which keeps the atmosphere clean. Less obvious is that electric ATVs are actually cheaper to manufacture, until you consider the battery source. other notable electric ATV benefits include running quietly and being a solar panel away from costing nothing to power. The future looks bright for electric ATVs, very bright.

Update 07/2013: Unfortunately the company that provided the electric ATVs for the test has closed. Barefoot Motors cited parts supply problems as the main reason for the plant closure. While this is a setback to the development of electric powered ATVs it is also an opportunity for another company to take Barefoot's place when battery technology has advanced enough to make production more cost effective.

*Update 07/2015*: Citing tough economic times Ruff and Tuff canceled their project and have gone out of business. Several other manufacturers have taken up the challenge including Yamaha, Polaris and others so electric ATVs are here to stay. I'll update the ATV brands list with their model names as they are introduced to the market.

After reading those updates you would assume that there is not enough demand for electric ATVs but you would be wrong, early adopters of new technologies often have to invest more resources into a project because it is new. The added costs are hard to justify when lower price options are available but as prices become competitive their demand can only increase.

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