Is There an UMV in Your Future?

 Small Vehicle Resource (SVR), for which I am Managing Director, as you can see from the masthead, has just published a report on what we call the small, task-oriented vehicle (STOV) industry.  STOVs include golf cars and PTVs, as well as off-road vehicles.  This report is the ninth in a series of biennial analyses of the industry and its markets, the first being published in 2000.  You can link to information on the report here: https://www.smallvehicleresource.com/blog/2019-small-task-oriented-vehicles-study/ .

We in the gated community are, of course, most interested in the first two vehicle types. But what about small vehicles, electric-powered to be sure, that have vastly increased performance metrics and thus far more versatile in terms of use? These latter vehicles are starting to come to market and are likely to proliferate in the 2020s. These vehicles I call “urban mobility vehicles” or UMVs.  I will give you a quick glance at some examples of these vehicles below, but first some key points in SVR’s report.

Key findings in the SVR industry report

Some of the important findings in the current report include:

  • As the golf fleet market continues its  slow decline, the Big Three manufacturers—Club Car, E-Z-GO, and Yamaha—are focusing on personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) for sales growth;
  • Light duty vehicles, especially electric-powered also have on-going growth prospects;
  • Lithium batteries will play a major role in building sales of all small vehicle types;
  • Beyond golf cars and PTVs there are significant opportunities for the industry in the emerging market of urban mobility transportation systems;
  • With relatively modest opportunities for growth in traditional market channels (including the off-road segment), we may well see the Big Three move into the UMV space.

Prospects for a major transition

What does the UMV offer that the PTV doesn’t?  Introducing the Uniti One UMV, which was developed in Sweden and is now in production mode in the U.K.

The Uniti One is narrow-dimensioned vehicle with tandem seating, specifically designed for an urban environment.  The company expects to have a production model in late 2019 and projects a 2020 market entry.

Taken from the company website, these are the key target specifications: 240km (150 mi.) range

  • 130km/h (81 mph) top speed
  • Rear wheel drive
  • Dual motors output of 120kW
  • 26kWh battery pack, DC fast charging
  • 25min from 20-80% on standard charge
  • 900kg (1980 lbs.) gross weight

If the Uniti One achieves these targeted performance specs, it will clearly surpass those of the currently available Club Car Onward and STAR Sirius. It also has the advantage of being fully-enclosed, although it surely would not be a big deal to provide an open top option. Suitable for travel outside the gated community? Possibly, depending on NHTSA safety regulations. Suitable for use on the golf course? Clearly not. Although lacking in this respect, the Uniti One could find a home with non-golfers and those preferring all-weather comfort to a needs-be storm-sheltered PTV.

The 3-wheel option:  The Arcimoto

As a second example, here is the U.S.-built Arcimoto. Classified as a motorcycle in most DMV jurisdictions, the Arcimoto has vastly superior performance specs to the currently-available PTVs (as noted below), can be fully-enclosed or open, and with the proper tires, usable on your favorite greens.

The Arcimoto, is a three-wheeled vehicle and would be as much at home in a gated community as in an urban environment, and on the roadways between the two. Some of the key specs:

  • Top speed:  75 mph
  • Range:  100 miles
  • Battery:  Lithium ion
  • Charger:  120 V or 240 V
  • Charge time:   8 hrs. or 4 hrs.

As note the Arcimoto can be fully enclosed. This vehicle clearly bridges the needs for suburban and urban environments—and the golf course.

An interesting aspect of the Arcimoto is the fact it uses electric motors at the two front wheels, making it clearly a vehicle of advanced design. The Arcimoto was recently demonstrated at The Villages in Florida. According to the company, it met an enthusiastic, thumbs-up reception, with some reservations regarding use on the community’s golf courses.  In an interview with the company earlier this year, I was assured that this issue could be resolved.

What will it take for a transition to take place?

The transition could be characterized as moving from a “golf-centric” vehicle to an “urban-centric” vehicle. The urban-centric UMV can be designed for use both inside and outside the gated community, where, now, the golf-centric PTV currently reigns.

There are essentially two things needed for the transition to take place:

  • First, a golf car manufacturer needs to step out and take the lead in vehicle development and promotion;
  • Second, the consumer, both inside and outside the gated community must be persuaded that this new class of products, the UMV, is a worthwhile purchase.

Neither one of these events is inevitable, but there is a great deal of enthusiasm with regard to the alleviation of congestion and pollution on the part of government entities—to which start-ups, such as Uniti and Arcimoto, are responding—that will be influential in market development and consumer perceptions.

We have the technology

One very important factor to take note of is the fact that the underlying technology is in place to allow the transition to take place. Range anxiety, in technical terms anyway, is fading fast under the impact of lithium battery technology and DC fast charging.  Electric motors are becoming more and more powerful, using permanent magnet and axial flux technologies.

Regulatory restrictions could raise issues pertaining to on-road use. The Arcimoto skins that cat and carbon fiber developments may put the crash test barrier to rest for good.

I am personally optimistic that the UMV market will develop and become clearly defined over the next five years.

Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com.  Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *