Off road enjoyment with electric motorcycles and ATV’s

There are many people using recreational off-road vehicles as their means to enjoy the great outdoors. They can be riding at an organized dirt track, around their farm, or at parks or other places. These vehicles usually are not “street legal” and don’t fall under the same requirements. Noise is an issue with off-road vehicles, their gas engines are usually noisy and getting a bunch of them at the same place for a race can be deafening.On the other hand many people go to the wilderness to enjoy peace and quiet and are understandably disturbed by noisy vehicles drowning out the quiet solitude.

Fortunately the electric vehicle revolution offers a possible answer. Electric offroad vehicles are on the market (with more coming) and they offer a quieter yet very powerful ride. Electric vehicles have high torque off the line making them great fun to ride. “The common belief is that less noise means less power, and for the most part, that’s true.” Electric vehicles are an exception to this rule in that they pack great power along with silence.

One choice is to build your own electric offroad vehicle. The steps are a lot like an EV car conversion but may be simpler because of the smaller vehicle. One excellent example is the NEM0 – Electric Dual Sport Motorcycle project which is a well documented fetchingly simple looking EV conversion (still in progress) of an dirt bike.

If you lack the time or talent there are a growing number of companies selling commercially built electric off-road vehicles.

Quantya USA and Zero Motorcycles both are selling electric dirt bikes and electric street motorcycles. Quantyas’ bike weighs 195 lbs, peak power of 12kw, uses a 48 volt 40 amp-hour battery pack, a maximum speed of 45 miles/hr and a 2+ hour riding time. Zero Motorcycles’ ZeroX weighs 151 lbs, peak power of 17kw, a 58 volt 35 amp-hour battery pack, and a riding time of 2 hours or so. Additionally their motorcycle features a quick change battery pack so that after a 1 minute battery swap you’re riding again.

Barefoot Motors builds an electric four wheel all-terrain vehicle (ATV) that’s meant for utility use such as on a farm, not just for recreation. It uses a more powerful control system offering up to 56kw of power, an 80 volt 100 amp-hour battery pack, speed is governed for up to 30 miles/hr, and it offers 3-8 hours of work time. Some accessories are a 12 volt outlet to power implements, a quick change battery pack, a winch, a boom sprayer, and a storage box. Barefoot Motors also entered an electric motorcycle in the recent TTXGP race on the Isle of Man.

Bad Boy Buggies sells a different sort of electric four wheel all-terrain vehicle (ATV). They offer three models, two with a 26 HP drive train, the other with a 40 HP drive train.

Recently Zero Motorcycles held a 24 hour endurance race at a dirt bike track in San Jose. This was made possible by the quick change battery packs because otherwise the race would have been punctuated by 2 hour gaps for battery pack recharges. Instead the rider would exit the track to the pit area, pit crew do a quick check of the bike, swap the pack, and within two minutes a fresh rider would be riding the bike on the track.

The Zero Motorcycles race was attended by Don Amador of the Blue Ribbon Coalition who was studying noise levels and found a huge contrast between the typical dirt bike race and this one. At the traditional race the noise is deafeningly loud and verifiable with a decibel meter, but at this race he measured the noise level as equivalent to normal conversation. This means dirt bikes could be used next to houses and the people living there would not be bothered by the noise. If it’s true that noise is the primary annoying factor causing behind the majority of other complaints, then electric off-road vehicles offer a way to solve this primary problem.

Perhaps this is the future of off-road motorsports, only Time will tell. It does offer an interesting alternative to the noisy gas powered dirt bikes currently in use.

Interview w/ Don Amador at 24 Hours of Electricross:

24 Hours of Electricross – Interview with Neal Saiki:

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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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