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GROUND ZERO FOR POLARIS?

To kickstart a clunkily-entitled “rEV’d up” electrification strategy, US powersports giant Polaris has signed a ten-year partnership agreement with leading electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero.

The deal encompasses application of Zero’s proven powertrain technology to the Polaris off-road vehicle (ORV) and snowmobile segments. Co-development projects are already under way, with the first of several Zero-powered electric vehicles to be unveiled by the end of 2021.

And, according to Polaris chairman and chief executive Scott Wine, his “rEV’d up” strategy aims to offer customers an electric vehicle option within each of the company’s core product segments by 2025 — presumably including its Indian Motorcycle operations. “We believe this transformative partnership will enable us to leapfrog technological hurdles around range and cost, while providing a tremendous speed-to-market advantage,” he added.

In fact, the Zero tie-up represents a second suck of the electric sauce bottle for Polaris. In January 2015, it acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business. The top-spec Brammo bike was rebadged as a Victory Empulse and made in small quantities alongside Victory’s petrol-engined cruiser range until 2017, when Polaris killed off the Victory brand following its purchase and successful relaunch of Indian Motorcycle.

During that period, versions of the Empulse were entered in the Isle of Man TT’s one-lap electric events. In 2015, Lee Johnston took third place and Guy Martin fourth for Victory, with respective 111.26mph and 109.72mph laps. Then in 2016, the late William Dunlop stormed to second spot at an average speed of 115.84mph.

But the real benefit of the Brammo acquisition was nothing to do with motorcycles. Polaris leveraged Brammo bike technology for its Ranger EV Li-ion side-by-side ORV, which remains the best-selling electric off-roader in North America. It’s not without competition on home turf, though. Textron produces electric “stealth” quadbikes and ORVs for the US hunting market, in parallel with a conventional ORV range inherited from takeover target Arctic Cat.

 

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