Polaris Goes Electric With Its Off-Road Vehicles
(Bloomberg) -- Carbon emissions, while terrible for the environment, also aren’t great for hunting deer. Gasoline engines, it turns out, are a dead give-away for many a marksman; they aren’t ideal around skittish livestock either.
That’s part of the pitch from Polaris Inc. this morning as it unveils an electric version of its Ranger off-road vehicle, a staple of rural America and the best-selling product in the company’s $7 billion motorsports empire. The battery-powered machine, formally dubbed the Ranger XP Kinetic, will not only be virtually silent but roughly one-third more powerful than similar models that still burn dead dinosaur goo; Polaris also reckons the rig will be about 70% cheaper to service and maintain.
“It provides an opportunity for us to broaden the market and attract people who may not have come into the space,” said chief executive officer Mike Speetzen. “We do think it will cannibalize some customers, but how much and how fast remains to be seen.”
The new Polaris rig will be able to tow up to 2,500 pounds and convey real-time battery capacity on a seven-inch infotainment screen. Much like a Tesla, its software occasionally will be updated over-the-air. Those who forget where they parked will be able to locate their machine via an app.
The trade off for the million or so Americans every year who buy an off-road vehicle is price. The new Ranger will cost between $25,000 and $30,000, while the get-in price on the internal-combustion model is just $11,000. Range may also be a deterrent. The silent Polaris comes with two battery options, the largest of which will travel about 80 miles between charges; while Ranger owners with large tracts of land often strap auxiliary gas cans to their machines and cover hundreds of miles in a day.
Polaris is taking deposits on the vehicle now, though it doesn’t plan to deliver any vehicles until this summer. The lag was designed, in part, to get a better sense of demand. Speetzen expects a crowd of customers who have yet to buy an off-road vehicle, including people who will opt for the electric Ranger in lieu of a golf cart. Polaris also is hoping to stack up orders from police departments, border patrol units and other government agencies who may have a mandate to buy zero-emissions vehicles.
Last year, Polaris posted $4.2 billion in revenue from its off-road vehicles, far more than any other segment. Though the company isn’t planning to idle its gas-powered products any time soon, it is rapidly developing electric options thanks to a 10-year exclusive supplier agreement with Zero Motorcycles, an e-bike brand. Eventually, consumers will be able to buy a battery-powered version of virtually everything Polaris makes, from snowmobiles to Indian motorcycles.
Some of those machines, however, may be a long time coming. Cold weather, for example, is tough on battery capacity, as is the kind of aggressive acceleration associated with some of the company’s high-powered bikes and off-road vehicles. “What I’m not going to do is to just go out and electrify just to electrify,” Speetzen explained. “You’re going to see us focused heavily during the initial few years, is around this utility space.”
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