Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another promising electric ATV option

I was recently introduced to an Italian company manufacturing a line of electric-powered quads, which are now available in the United States. Global Electric Motorcars, which made the first EU street-legal electric ATV (which makes the mpg argument irrelevant btw) now has an exclusive US distributor for several of its machines - Electric Vehicles Unlimited, LLC. The company is based in Fargo, North Dakota and will also be the distributor for Canada, Mexico and South America.

They are offering three ATV models:

Geo Country Quad

  • Dimensions: L77 in x W44 in x H45 in
  • Weight: 549 lbs
  • Wheel base: 49 in
  • Max. load weight: 231 lbs
  • Motor: 4kw/2800, continuous current
  • Battery: 6 x 12V, 74Ah NorthStar
  • Charger: 110V-220V Zivian On-board
  • Total charge time: approx. 9 hrs
  • Top speed: 25 mph
  • Top range: street, 31 mi; off-road, 25 mi
  • Gear: automatic
  • Transmission: rear w/ locked differential, auto gear box plus reverse

Geo Light Quad

  • Dimensions: L53 in x W33 in x H39 in
  • Weight: 265 lbs
  • Motor: DC series
  • Motor power: 600 W
  • Battery: 48V, 24 Ah, maintenance-free
  • Charger: AC 220V – AC 110V
  • Total charging time: Approx. 8 hrs.
  • Top speed: Approx. 19 mph
  • Top range: Approx. 19 mi


Geo Mini Quad

  • Dimensions: L47 in x W27 in x H28 in
  • Weight: 93 lbs
  • Motor: DC series
  • Motor power: 450 W
  • Battery: 3 x 12V, 12 Ah, maintenance-free
  • Charger: AC 220V – AC 110V
  • Total charging time: Approx. 6 hrs
  • Top speed: Approx. 11 mph
  • Top range: Approx. 12 mi

To give you an idea of the sizes, the Geo Country is comparable to a mid-size utility ATV (Honda Rancher or Kawasaki Prairie) while the Geo Light Quad is slightly smaller than a traditional 90cc mini ATV. The Geo Mini is even smaller than a gas powered 50cc and also significantly lighter.

While the ATV platforms themselves are not quite to the level BAREFOOT MOTORS is working on with the Model One electric ATV, the battery technology and motor appear to be solid. Charging the Geo Quads is very simple with an on-board electric charger and cable that can be connected to any common electric home-socket AC110V/220V. The claimed electricity usage during the charging is comparable to an electric shaver.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

ATVs can go "on road" and offroad


Was cool to see this general news piece featuring a Polaris RZR used for running errands around town in Gillette, Wyoming (even if they kept calling it a "Razor"). The article covers some of the potential pros (fuel economy, more agile, better in bad conditions like snow and ice) and cons (lack of awareness from other drivers, design features not intended for street use).

The funny thing is, I saw a bunch of articles about the failed ban of ATVs from all roads in West Virgina at the same time. My favorite quote from the governor himself - "It makes all the sense in the world to keep those dern things off the highways."

My response would have been either "have you not seen an ATV Supermoto event" or more likely, "I think you should try banning cars from the road first". Or perhaps, "never been outside of West Virginia?" The fact is you don't have to go as far as Europe to see quads used safely and effectively on the road. It is possible right here in the United States. Not only in Wyoming as covered above, but my own state of Arizona along with South Dakota, Ohio, and Michigan from what others are reporting. In Canada it has been up to each township or county for awhile now.

I'll work to compile current laws and some of the real issues on this, but for now simply wanted to raise a little awareness of the possibilities.

LS Motorsports launches consumer financing

LS Motorsports and Sparta Commercial Services have launched a consumer financing and leasing program for all LS Motorsports brands, including Diamo ATVs.

According to Sparta Chairman and CEO Anthony Havens, LS Motorsports now will offer retail dealers a traditional type of installment loan product or consumer lease to their customers.

“Until now, consumers who wanted a Diamo, Italjet or Fisher could only rely on their personal major credit cards or some revolving charge program in order to finance their purchase, both of which typically carry higher interest rates than the new LS Motorsports program”, said Havens.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A couple more looks at the new King Quad 750

One of the more popular utility quads on the market, the upgraded KingQuad 750 has received lots of media attention, including two more reviews from Dirt Wheels and ATV Rider in their recent issues. Thought I would recap some of what we already know, and some fresh points.

Excellent tranny

“The 08 KingQuad 750 is possibly the best-shifting ATV on the market” - ATV Rider

“The KingQuad 750’s CVT automatic transmission is one of the best parts...On the fly, 4WD transition was excellent...4WD nearly flawless” - Dirt Wheels

More power for an already super capable machine

Suzuki claims the most noticeable improvement from the larger displacement engine will be the torque delivery from low to midrange and then slight improvement on the top end. The testers confirmed they felt it...

“it’s easy to lift the front tires from the ground when necessary or crawl up gnarly steep hills...it has much better power than its previous models” - ATV Rider


“One of the best hill climbing utility quads available” - Dirt Wheels



Some issues with steering and suspension remain

Just to be clear, you should plan on purchasing an aftermarket steering stabilizer for this quad if you'll be doing any fast-paced trail riding.

“has light and quick steering for a 4WD ATV. This makes it a great cornering machine, but also makes it somewhat unpredictable on rougher trails” - Dirt Wheels


“The suspension is satisfactory but seems to be a bit soft for the weight of the machine even in the highest settings. This was the area of the KingQuad that probably let us down the most” - ATV Rider



Other details to point out

  • 75 miles on a tank of gas
  • Reverse gear rev-limiter was increased to 7000rpm (allowing for better control in situations when you need more power)
  • Stabilizer bar added to the rear IRS

YFZ 450 and Raptor 700 compared in the dunes

Off-road.com took a look at two special edition Yamaha sport quads out in the big dunes of Glamis, California recently. Some good insight on the differences between the YFZ450 and the Rapter 700 (two popular ATVs for duners) more than a full test or comparison to other quads. Some comments from the beginner /novice level rider:

"In the dunes the Raptor 700 feels more like a Cadillac"


"For the aggressive rider that likes to attack the dunes and is looking for a light, flickable ATV the 450 is perfect. If loads of usable power and a plush cruiser that is still plenty of fun when in attack mode is more your speed, than a 700 is what you need."

Friday, March 14, 2008

TGB Outback 425 gets the privilege of being in Dirt Wheels


The Taiwanese-built Outback 425 got a review in April 2008 Dirt Wheels in what is a rare appearance these days for non-traditional quad manufacturers. And after reading the article I'm not sure if they don't like the quad, or don't like that TGB/Cobra Powersports doesn't provide them with the advertising dollars the brand name guys do!

For example, they give mention to the following:

  • "Very strong and thicker than normal cargo racks"
  • "The rear disc is tucked away inside the right wheel resulting in a very impressive ground clearance measurement (for a straight axle quad) of 7.5 inches"
  • "Not only can you use it [12 volt accessory source] to power items such as cell phones and GPS units, you can do it while you ride. That's tough to do on any other ATV"
  • "Full complement of aluminum skid plates...as standard equipment. Most brand name quads come with weak plastic skid plates"

Yet they conclude that for some reason the Outback 425 should only cost half as much as a name brand? Another thing that confused me where the following apparent contradictions...

"plenty of power was available as long as speeds were kept under 30 miles per hour"

but then

"could reach a top speed of 55 miles per hour without much excitement. Top end power was much better than the torque and lack of power found in the lower RPM"

Two different test riders perhaps? One thing that should be made clear is that it is no speed demon regardless, and while minor adaptations (such as mud tires) were made for the U.S . market, it is largely a platform designed to be capable off and ON road. I wouldn't mind testing one for dirt and paved roads here in Arizona where ATVs can be licensed for that (I mentioned some thoughts on that yesterday).

They also pick on it being heavy. Perhaps it feels heavy but I just checked our database and it looks like the listed dry weight of 590lbs for the Outback is on par with the Suzuki KingQuad 400 at 590lbs (formerly the Eiger) or KingQuad 450 at 606lbs for example. And actually comes in lighter than other popular makes like the Outlander 400 (615 pounds) or Arctic Cat 400 at a whooping 645 pounds!

That said, I actually found the review itself to be one of the best ones I've read in a magazine - not the usual glowing, "you should own one of every quad" type of articles. But again, not sure this was from them being overly critical or perhaps just as a result of it being an unfamiliar ATV. Either way you can check it out on page 116.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pendolauto and Tesseract "quads"


Wanted to give a mention to another trend outside the traditional ATV industry that will hopefully be another driver to making quads a bigger part of the mobility and transportation options available in this country, not to mention bolstering the industry in general. I'm talking about the hybrid bike-quad concepts being shown in the motorcycle world. I first saw the Yamaha Tesseract awhile back, and now Autoblog had a post on the Pendolauto in which they had this to say...

"Swiss automobile and motorcycle customizing company Sbarro unleashes its Pendolauto concept. Like the Tesseract, the Pendolauto leans into turns like a motorcycle would, yet features four wheels, like a car or a quad." (emphasis mine)

Seems people are not sure how to classify these machines. I think in large part due to the fact that ATVs have this black cloud over them from a safety standpoint and assumption that they should never be driven on roads (despite the fact that this is commonplace in other countries).

In any event I'll be following this closely as I believe these hybrids and even future designs from ATV manufacturers can in fact bring greater safety and care for the environment! Autoblog says it best...

"Because the Tesseract and Pendolauto have four wheels, nothing quite like them will be available in the U.S. any time soon. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be have yet to understand that a machine like the Pendolauto can offer similar benefits as motorcycles while perhaps adding a few degrees of safety."


Yamaha Tesseract

2008 Yamaha Grizzly 700 EPS test


The latest ATV Television podcast takes a look at the electronic power steering (EPS) equipped Yamaha Grizzly 700. My takeaway after downloading the video...

The good

  • EPS
  • Handling
  • Mass centralization and low center of gravity

The bad

  • Engine noise and vibration (not on par with KingQuad or Kawi V-Twin)
  • Gear shifter is notchy and hard to use and no parking brake.

Can-Am offering 3-year service coverage or No/No/No for 12 months

BRP has put out their spring promotion for adult-size utility Can-Am's; including a 6-month BRP Limited warranty plus a 30-month B.E.S.T. extended service contract or 12 months same as cash.

These offers are valid in US only from March 1, 2008 to May 31, 2008. Check the website for details on eligible models.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

High performance 450 shootout

Dirt Wheels has their long-awaited shootout of the major high-performance 450 sport quads in their April 2008 issue. Despite the "and the winner is..." teaser on the cover, I would say the piece is more a "party" involving seven awesome machines than a true shootout! No clear winner is declared, which I agree would be difficult anyway. But this also allows me to give you my own breakdown of the data and as I read and re-read the article, I thought a "visual guide" would help...

First, the seven machines to keep straight:

  • Can-Am DS 450
  • Honda TRX 450
  • Kawasaki KFX 450
  • KTM 450 XC
  • Polaris Outlaw 450MXR (straight axle)
  • Suzuki LT-R450
  • Yamaha YFZ 450

Key differentiating specs (since most are the same)

EFI - DS450, KFX450, LT-R450
Reverse - KFX450, 450XC, 450MXR

In order of cost

  1. TRX450 ($6850)
  2. YFZ450 ($7100)
  3. 450MXR ($7200)
  4. KFX450, LT-R450 ($7400)
  5. DS450 ($7500)
  6. KTM 450XC ($8800)

Drag test

  1. TRX450, YFZ450
  2. 450MXR, LTR-450, DS450, 450XC
  3. KFX450

Top speed

  1. TRX450, YFZ450 (78mph)
  2. DS450 (77mph)
  3. KFX450, LTR450 (74mph)
  4. 450XC, 450MXR (73mph)

Trail loop

  1. KTM450, DS450, YFZ450 (34min)
  2. TRX450 (34.25min)
  3. KFX450
  4. 450MXR, LT-R450

Suspension

  1. 450XC, 450MXR
  2. DS450, YFZ450
  3. KFX450
  4. TRX450, LT-R450

Jumping

  1. 450XC, DS450, LT-R450

Handling

  1. 450XC
  2. YFZ450
  3. LTR450, 450MXR, DS450
  4. TRX450
  5. KFX450

So now you can make your own call on the winner or check out the full article for plenty of good comparative photos and more comments.

Friday, March 7, 2008

QuadExperts week in review

Sorry for the lame coverage recently, as I've said before we have some cool stuff coming on the web. And by stuff, I mean things =)

In any event, here is our standard week in review that will be delivered each Friday...

Kymco UXV Side-by-Side this year?
KYMCO USA in Spartanburg, S.C hosted a bunch of journalists last week to check out the lineup of products that will be formally unveiled at the company's dealer meeting in April. It is rumored that the KYMCO UXV 500 SxS, first shown at the EICMA show in Milan last year, will be among them. And if you happen to be in Daytona this week, you can check out KYMCO products displayed at the track.

2008 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 video
Together with getting some of their older inventory of reviews up, a new video from ATV TV has been posted on the new Brute.

Suzuki KingQuad 450AXi year-long update
ATV Illustrated has now put a year on this new machine, and is very happy with just a couple wish list items - better rear tires and easier access to oil dipstick. Not bad.

2008 Honda TRX300EX review
ATV Illustrated also just put up a glowing review of the air-cooled Honda TRX300. Despite appearances and perceptions, the takeaway is that this ultra-reliable quad is also ultra fun on the trails and even sand dunes.

ATV rescues an automobile


This funny story almost seems made up considering you have a dealer, family member and manufacturer all involved. However, the pictures provide the evidence.

So what do you do if you get a GMC Envoy stuck in the snow and mud? Pull it out with a Polaris Sportsman 800 and winch of course! I like this story not only because it fits my theme of the good potential ATVs have, but I also have a growing negative sentiment in relation to automobiles and transportation in this country in general.

I mentioned some of this in my popular post on the Model One electric ATV, but basically I believe quads deserve consideration as a mode of transportation and not just for recreation. What's more, despite the ongoing media frenzy around the dangers of ATVs, I've been doing my own research that shows how much worse cars and trucks on US roads are. And I'm not talking just about sheer numbers. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Kawasaki unveils camo editions of Brute Force and Teryx quads

Albeit quietly, as I didn't see an announcement, just a bunch of new pages on their website. Previously available as part of the NRA OUTDOORS™ packages, you can now get the REALTREE™ Hardwoods Green® HD camo on the following models...


Brute Force® 750 4x4i (Camo)
Brute Force® 650 4x4i (Camo)
Brute Force® 650 4x4 (Camo)

Same thing goes for the Teryx Side-by-Side

Teryx™ 750 4x4 (Camo)
Teryx™ 750 4x4 LE (Camo)

Polaris Outlaw IRS recall

Around 11,300 Outlaw IRS-model quads have been recalled due to the possibility of a retention bolt coming loose and causing the rear wheels to lock-up. The problem has been reported to Polaris 11 times.

The recall involves the following ATVs:

  • 2006 Outlaw 500 “IRS”
  • 2007 Outlaw 500 “IRS”
  • 2007 Outlaw 525 “IRS”
  • 2008 Outlaw 525 “IRS”

See this Polaris web page for more.