Every day you hear more and more about electric cars, electric scooters, and electric everything. While some people run for the hills when they hear that electric hum, others pine for the perfect electric future where vehicles deliver performance, convenience, and value.
What about UTVs?
While electric UTVs have been around almost as long as the UTV itself, there hasn't been that one battery-laden vehicle that makes sense for the off-road market. The electric vehicle manufacturer, Nikola, is looking to make the first true enthusiast electric UTV — and what they're promising sounds awesome.
Electric UTVs are nothing new and every major manufacturer has taken a stab at them. Polaris has the Ranger EV, Textron has the Prowler EV, and Can-Am had the Commander E LSV for a few years. Even Honda is starting to dip their toes in with an all-electric Pioneer concept vehicle that they teased earlier this year.
Electric UTVs are Limited
These electric UTVs have some major limitations. They typically have top speeds of less than thirty miles per hours, their maximum range is limited to around 60 miles in ideal conditions, and they take a long time to recharge.
These vehicles are basically glorified golf carts which isn't necessarily a bad thing. You can't use them for the typical mod bogging, rock crawling, or dune riding that you often think of when you think "UTV", but that's not what they're built for. They have a small audience comprised mostly of hunters who value quiet and businesses who need efficient but versatile vehicles to keep their grounds maintained or make sure everybody is happy at an event. Then there are those that really just need a glorified golf cart — they don't golf, but they need to get around their gated community and don't want to get fined by their HOA for being too loud.
Whatever reason someone has for buying an electric UTV, it's probably not a good enough reason for you, beloved SuperATV visitor, to want one. At least, not yet.
The Nikola NZT
Enter the Nikola NZT — an all-electric UTV designed for serious UTV enthusiasts. It's not just a UTV designed to overcome the shortcomings of previous electric machines, it's designed to be the best thing on the market. They've given it an unbelievable 590 HP. Let that sink in. The Ranger EV has 30 HP. The RZR XP Turbo has 168 HP. It's not even close!
On top of that, it has 722 ft-lbs of torque. I don't even know how to contextualize that — it's just a lot. It uses four electric motors to power each wheel individually, so you get all that torque the instant you hit the accelerator. They tout a 3.5 second 0-60 MPH acceleration. It's pretty impressive.
They've packed it with some big batteries so it has a range of up to 150 miles before needing to be recharged which is okay. It's not perfect but it's worlds better than the drive around the block you seem to get with other electric UTVs.
It's a serious machine that can certainly handle anything you throw at it. Sure it might run out of juice a little early if you plan an action packed weekend or you enter a long distance race, but it surpasses every other gas powered UTV on the market in a lot of ways.
Nikola hasn't solved every electric problem with the NZT. Namely the price. While the electric UTVs mentioned earlier ring in around the $10,000 range, the NZT starts at $28,900. That's not a terrible value compared to the highest end RZR Turbos and X3s that cost about the same, but it comes with reduced power and reduced range — 266 HP and up to 90 miles. The power isn't so bad but the range may be a deal breaker for many. To get that lower power model's range up to 150 miles — what I would consider "acceptable" — you're looking at a total cost of $44,900. That's well into the "no thanks" range. To get that high-end 590 HP and high range you're looking at $61,900. That's not something many people would be able to afford.
The charging times are decent or at least par for the course. With a 240 volt plug you're looking at 8 hours to a full charge. With a standard 120 volt socket your looking at 18 hours. That's pretty comparable to most electric vehicles out there where the same advice always applies: don't use a standard socket. The problem comes when you're out camping, though. Good luck finding fast charging station out there. You'd probably be better off using solar panels (which Nikola says will be possible.)
Oh, and one other thing: they haven't made them yet. You can reserve one, but you won't see these on the market for at least another year or two. So what exactly this UTV will be is still not certain. Every image you see of the NZT is either a prototype or a computer rendering. While Nikola is showing off the NZT all the time, and they even have a special Nikola World event they're throwing next April, they still haven't crossed the finish line. Plus, when a company is unproven, you have no idea how things like longevity, warranty, and service will be.
The Future of Electric
At the end of the day, the NZT is a whole lot of promise – check out the video below to see the prototype in action. Whether you like it or not, whether it's too expensive or the range is too limited, it's an indication of things to come. Nikola is doing something no one else has done before. Whether the NZT is great or not isn't what matters, what really matters is what comes after that. What matters is the first high performance electric UTV that anybody can afford. Watch out — soon the electric hum of gasless UTVs will find its way onto the trails and make the ride parks quiet. Who knows, maybe it'll even make its way into your garage.