Last week, Polaris invited me to come to Road America in Wisconsin to test the all-new, all-electric Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic side-by-side UTV. After months of speculation about the brand’s first-ever flagship electric car, I couldn’t turn them down.
Why did Polaris invite little old Jo Borrás to drive their new, 100 HP UTV? While that probably had more to do with being the closest CleanTechnica author available, I’m also right in the heart of Polaris’ target market—or so close anyway that our family recently purchased a new side-by of our own earlier this summer. What’s more, as a former sales manager at a Honda powersports dealership, I’ve ridden comparable Pioneer and Talon models and even sampled a Yamaha or two along the way.
I also sampled Polaris’ first electric effort, the Polaris Ranger EV UTV. This vehicle – which was developed before the marriage of Polaris/Zero motorcycles – was powered by lead-acid batteries and had more in common with an EZ-Go golf cart than a high-performance SxS. For someone who combines electric power with a touch of off-the-line acceleration, this was disappointing… if not downright boring.
While the little Polaris Ranger EV UTV is capable enough to haul hay and hand tools around a small farm, I wasn’t convinced it was worth its price, regardless of its electrified benefits. As such, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to come at this new Polaris with as much objectivity as the company would likely desire. In addition, to make doubly sure that I gave the Kinetic a good shake, I took a backup.
Baby (and me and Polaris guy)
Riding with me this week was Hobbes, a 20 year old college student who likes to run things. It was the first time for both of them on circuit trails outside of Road America and first time piloting a Polaris of any kind and was psyched. Somewhere between my jaded cynicism and his wide-eyed enthusiasm, there might be objectivity, right?
2023 Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic
The Ranger XP Kinetic represents the first fruits of the “rEVolution” partnership between manufacturing powerhouse Polaris and EV innovators at Zero Motorcycles. As a machine, yes incredibly capable and zero source electric motor with 110 HP is just one of the reasons.
Let’s talk about the XP Kinetic battery. Or, to be more precise, batteries – there are two of them. The “Premium” model gets you a 15 kWh battery, while the more expensive “Ultimate” version has almost double that, at 29.8 kWh. Both run on a 100V electrical system, with a separate 12V system powering the accessories – this is essential for aftermarket and existing Ranger customers, wink it means the accessories they currently have on their ICE Ranger will almost all work perfectly with the XP Kinetic . version.
The battery is charged using a level 2 system which is great as almost any hobby farmer or dune blaster will already have a 220/240v outlet in their barn/garage to charge from. The charging port – standard J1772 – means it can share a charger with other electric cars or tractors you may have.
You won’t say I didn’t talk about reach. Off-road equipment usually does not work in terms of range, but in hours. For example, a diesel tractor will measure hours of operation, not miles, because it can be in operation for several hours hauling heavy things across the farm at a slow crawl and only travel three or four miles. Similarly, a Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic used on the farm does not drain its batteries as much as a Chevy Bolt at a constant 70 MPH or a tractor idling all day. First, EVs tend to be more efficient at low speeds. Second, diesels still burn fuel, even when idling.
Polaris? When it is not moving, it is not using its electrons. (Not for practical purposes, anyway.) That means you can use the smaller, 15 kWh battery all day long on a single charge. It also means you can run out of juice in two hours of full-tilt, 50 MPH off-road driving. Keep an eye on your battery gauge and you should be fine.
Speaking of high-speed off-road hijinks, we certainly got into them!
Hobbes followed the Polaris factory rider around a well-mapped trail and held tight to his bumper throughout the ride – which saw us run at high speeds in part, catch some air on the steepest hills and even splash around the bits. It was great fun and highlighted two things about the XP Kinetic: the first is that it’s a very capable utility vehicle, the second is that this thing can move.
Off the line it’s just as fast as an RZR or Talon. Intellectually, I know it’s probably a bit slower than both, but it would be close – and I’m sure it would leave more utility-oriented UTVs like the Honda Pioneer or ICE-powered Rangers in the dust.
The only sight he will see
So good – farmers and worker bees get it. Thrill-seekers will enjoy it, too, although the Ranger’s proven suspension and chassis (which is tuned slightly differently to accommodate the XP Kinetic’s lower center of gravity) isn’t up to par with Fox’s racing setup on the Talon. But who else might dig the new electric Ranger?
“Another target customer who will greatly benefit from the new electric Ranger will be hunters,” I wrote last winter — and I’m still standing by. “With the XP Kinetic’s quiet, odor-free electric motors, hunters will be able to approach their targets without being deterred by the noise and smell of a combustion engine. And sure, that angle might not play well with the PETA crowd, but it’s a significant market, and if we can get those rural markets to embrace the benefits of off-road electrification, it’s only a matter of time before they take advantage of EVs on the road as well.”
Frankly, after spending a few hours thrashing the all-new Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic on dirt and dusty trails, it occurs to me that the question isn’t, “Who would like this? but rather: “Who No like?”
I asked Hobbes what he thought of the Polaris and how it specifically compared to our UTV. He muttered something about how amazing it was and headed off to another Ranger (this one in full camouflage) to go for another round. (We’ll call that a win.)
The Polaris Electric Guard is – Finally! – ready to take on the world.
In addition to electrification and Zero Motorcycle engines, there was another hot new thing at Polaris. That’s Ride Command+, the company’s new app that combines navigation, trip planning, and an innovative “buddy” system that lets groups of riders keep track of each other—for example, when Hobbes flips the Ranger (or with a near-100% chance if I break the A-arm that bounces the Ranger’s right front wheel off a misplaced rock, the rest of the party sees that the Ranger isn’t moving and comes to help.
From the official release:
RIDE COMMAND+ offers connectivity between vehicles and mobile devices, allowing riders to conveniently check current vehicle status, while Vehicle Health will trigger diagnostic messages and monitor fuel/charge levels to confirm vehicle readiness. The RIDE COMMAND+ Vehicle Locator will be an extremely beneficial feature for hunters or anyone who enjoys the outdoors when they have to leave their vehicle parked. The Vehicle Locator function provides the exact location of the machine. RIDE COMMAND+ brings enhanced mobile technology for riders to connect, drive and adventure.
Adding to the already extensive offering, Polaris will continue to expand the RIDE COMMAND+ service with even more cutting-edge features via Over the Air (OTA) updates. Coming later in 2022, RIDE COMMAND+ will offer its riders enhanced safety with position and crash alerts. Bump Alert, a 24/7 monitoring feature, sends alerts whenever there is a bump or vehicle movement. If you move, Vehicle Locator will provide your latest coordinates. In addition, Polaris will introduce Ride Tracking+, where riders can automatically track their rides using the vehicle’s GPS location without using their cell phone data. After the ride, riders will be able to generate a complete report from the day’s ride, including recorded time, miles traveled, waypoints and elevation changes. The report is a fun and useful tool not only for reliving the ride, but also for planning future trips.
RIDE COMMAND+ will come standard on all 2023 RANGER XP Kinetic models… (a) access to the new service through the Polaris mobile application, websiteor the seven-inch touchscreen display system in the vehicle.
In practice, it worked well enough that when someone in our group bounced and snapped an A-arm when their Ranger’s front right wheel bounced off a misplaced rock, everyone knew about it fairly quickly and the group as a whole was able to react. In other words it’s a heck of a safety net and I think it’s going to be a must for travel agencies that hire them.
And if you ever get the chance to rent one of these, do it. The list of better ways to spend a sunny summer afternoon than hitting the trails on the Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic is really, really short.
Original content from CleanTechnica.
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