Sep 29, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Polaris to make electric snowmobiles and off-road vehicles

Image of a person riding a snowmobile in the woods
In the future, Polaris will offer electric powertrains across its lineup of snowmobiles and off-road vehicles. (Pictured is a current model, which doesn't represent the future product.) Photo credit: Polaris Inc.

Polaris plans to electrify its popular lineup of off-road vehicles and snowmobiles through a new 10-year technology partnership with Zero Motorcycles.

Why it matters: People who want to enjoy the Great Outdoors don't have to worry about polluting the environment or disturbing the wilderness when they're riding on a nearly-silent, zero-emission machine.

Details: Under the exclusive agreement, Polaris will develop, manufacture and sell electrified off-road vehicles and snowmobiles using Zero’s powertrain technology, hardware and software.

  • The company will offer an electric vehicle option within each of its core product segments by 2025, the first of which will debut by the end of 2021.
  • It includes Polaris' Ranger, RZR, and General side-by-side vehicles, as well as its all-terrain ride-on vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles.

Between the lines: In an interview with Axios, Polaris CEO Scott Wine acknowledged he was an "extremely reluctant" convert to electric powersports, because the company could never find the right balance of cost, performance, weight and range.

  • But EV technology has improved, and Zero Motorcycles, which has been designing and manufacturing electric motorcycles since 2006, is the right partner, he said.
  • Rather than spending "years and tens of millions of dollars" to develop its own EV technology, Wine said Polaris can leverage Zero's expertise to bring its electric machines to market faster.

What they're saying: "I never thought I would invest in an electric snowmobile. I thought it was the dumbest idea ever," Wine said.

  • It turns out ski resorts would like nothing more for their business, he said.
  • And while the power sports industry is typically "a bunch of rednecks" who will likely choose conventional two-stroke and four-stroke engines for some time, Wine said the pandemic has brought many new customers who are looking for an electric alternative.
  • "We believe there is broad interest across our product line. We don't know if it's 10% or 20% five years from now. It's not going to be 1%."

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