Whether you are GM, Tesla, or Polaris, the makers of all electric vehicles are up against the same problem. The laws of physics care not for the intention or desire of the user. Despite enormous push for electric vehicles, no company has been able to make breakthrough technological developments on either range limitations due to battery capacity, or speed of charging. Advancements have come incrementally, and usually based on improvements to known methods and technology. It takes an enormous amount of time and money to develop any product, but rather than start an entire electric vehicle program from ground zero, Polaris took a second option and bought a company already working on electric vehicles, ZERO MOTORCYCLES.
The new Ranger XP Kinetic isn’t the first electric UTV from Polaris. That title goes to the Ranger EV, a mid-sized Ranger powered by an AC-induction motor and eight traditional lead-acid batteries. The main drawing points to the EV are, it is quiet, and it can generally get you approximately 30 miles of range. The new Ranger XP Kinetic hopes to bring electric off-road performance beyond the level of current top-of-the line Ranger models. That’s no small challenge. The current Rangers are immensely powerful, supremely capable in all conditions, and they handle and ride excellent. What the new Ranger XP Kinetic brings to the table is:
- CHASSIS and FEATURES ARE BASED ON CURRENT FULL-SIZED RANGER. Polaris wasn’t giving up the features that made the Ranger great.
- OPTIMIZED FOR OFF-ROAD USE IN ALL CONDITIONS. It’s a Ranger. It had better be ready for bad weather, and both tough jobs and mountain trails.
- PERMANENT MAGNET AC MOTOR. Delivers instant throttle response and immense torque.
- 110 HP and 140 lb.-ft of TORQUE. Capable of towing 2,500 lbs. and hauling 1,250 lbs.
- TWO BATTERY OPTIONS. Comes with a Lithium-Ion 14.9 kWh standard, but option for a 29.8 Kwh battery
- MULTIPLE CHARGING OPTIONS. 120V or 240V
- EASY MAINTENANCE. Fewer moving parts
- 3 DRIVE MODES – ECO, STANDARD, and SPORT
- 3-YEAR ELECTRIC POWER TRAIN COVERAGE, 5-YEAR BATTERY COVERAGE
DESIGN CONSTRAINTS and REAL-WORLD TESTING
What Polaris gains from their acquisition of ZERO MOTORCYCLES is their development work done with performance vehicles, and Lithium-Ion battery technology. The new Ranger XP Kinetic will need plenty of both, and the limitations of the new Kinetic will be the same as with all electric vehicles: extended range, and quick charging. Nobody has been able to permanently solve either problem. Instead, the answer is usually a “quick charging” option, and extended battery packs. This is the route Polaris has taken with the new Ranger XP Kinetic as well. While the base model comes with a 14.9 kWh Lithium-Ion battery delivering approximately 45 miles of range, a larger 29.8 Kwh battery extends that range to approximately 80 miles. Your mileage will always depend on terrain, load, towing, accessories, and how heavy your right foot is. Charging options are either a standard 120V outlet, or through a 240V source, much like your clothes dryer or stove. According to Polaris, with the 240V option you can be back on the trail in 5 hours, while a 120V source means you are best charging overnight.
Polaris was careful to fully test the new Kinetic, and knowing the program leader who comes from deep in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where UTVs are a part of daily life, we expect those ranges to be accurate for real world conditions. He wouldn’t have it any other way. And make no mistake, overall range will be the biggest factor in how the XP Kinetic is accepted by the public. Customers won’t stand for being stranded and walking, and 45 miles isn’t much of a trail ride on northern trails or in the desert. Just like with electric car owners, you’ll need to plan your travels based on battery range. We can see the new XP Kinetic being excellent for quick trips between barns, across the construction site, and for creeping into the woods to your deer blind. Campus and parks departments, beach patrols, and municipalities will also be a good fit with the new model. Electric has its place! You’ve just got to plan your activities.
ACCESSORIES and PRICING
Polaris has a fantastic habit of offering a full line of accessories with any new model. They usually offer sub-models within a year as well, and we expect the same to happen with the new Ranger XP Kinetic. In fact, there are already accessories for the Kinetic, and a couple build options to choose from. That brings us to a major point: Price.
In base form, the 2023 Ranger XP Kinetic lists for $24,999 plus various fees, including a new $400 “logistics charge”. (Take note of our eye-roll). That is alarmingly close to the MSRP of a fully street legal, base model Jeep Wrangler, ($28,475), an excellent used pickup, and leaves $10k left over from the base model yet undoubtedly less luxurious Mahindra Roxor. Of course, all of those vehicles feature a traditional engine, albeit 70’s Jeep CJ technology with a diesel engine in the Roxor. The XP Kinetic Ultimate version begins at $29,999K. The Ranger XP Kinetic now offers more than any other electrically powered off-road capable vehicle. It’s truly off-road luxury when fully fitted out, and for some it might be the ultimate solution. You’ll just have to want one.
WHERE DOES THE TRAIL LEAD, and WILL OTHER OEMS FOLLOW?
Ironically, within a weeks’ time, Polaris introduced both the largest engine ever offered in a Side x Side, and a “green” electric alternative in their top-of-the-line Ranger UTV. About the new 2.0L engine and RZR Pro R models we wrote, “The other OEMS have surely taken note of the direction and methods Polaris used to bring the new RZR Pro R models to the market. The question becomes, will they follow?” Just like with that model, the answer is the same. Of all the OEMs, Honda has vast experience, and the most resources with power train development, but other OEMS are not without resources of their own. Perhaps a hybrid can solve the extended range problem, and help meet efficiency and emissions standards.
The new Ranger XP Kinetic will have its place. The customer will ultimately decide where and for who that will be.