Surprises in the PTV Market and Where New Technologies Could Take Us

Anyone having trouble buying and getting delivery of a new or used personal transportation vehicle (PTV)?  If not, you may be  one of the lucky ones.  The market for PTVs in the 2020/21 period was full of surprises, to wit:

  • COVID struck the country at the beginning of 2020, and obviously this pandemic was an unexpected shock—Surprise #1;
  • While the initial reaction in the PTV market through the first quarter of 2020 was a slump in demand, April saw a huge turnaround with demand increasing at an unprecedented rate—Surprise #2;
  • The turnaround was not transitory.  In fact, demand continued to increase throughout the rest of the year to the point that factories could not keep up with the new orders—Surprise #3;
  • Used vehicle inventories, which were bulging at the beginning of 2020, have dwindled to almost zero, as golf courses held back on fleet replacement (this being the main source of used vehicles)—Surprise #4;
  • Transocean shipping bogged down under the weight of increased global demand, port congestion; container shortages, and intermodal systems tie-ups.  The result, among  other things, was a shortage of parts for PTVs at the factory, leading to further delivery delays—Surprise #5;
  • What it cost to buy a PTV a year ago, is now 30%-50% higher—Surprise #6.

What might be the long-term effects?

Did COVID 19, in some strange and unpredictable way act as market catalyst, ushering in a new era in the personal transportation modalities and products?  In particular, have consumer preferences changed in such a way that the concept of a small, energy efficient vehicle is now far more mainstream than in the past?  There are all sorts of markets and brand precedents for this, in which products in a short period of time went from ho hum to high flying.  

Probably the key product that has lifted the PTV market into the realm of expanded consumer awareness is Club Car’s Onward.  Quite popular from the moment of its introduction, it now comes with lithium power and a sports model.  Demand, according to executives at Club Car and dealers I have spoken to, is soaring.  A Club Car executive confided that the factory was having trouble keeping up with demand.

Small Vehicle Resource, LLC (SVR) will cover a wide range of topics in post-COVID product develop-ment, technology, and market trends in its upcoming annual analysis, entitled, Trends & Outlook for the Small, Task-Oriented Vehicle Industry:  Pathway to a New Era in Small, Electric Vehicles.   For more information and to purchase, contact info@smallvehicleresource.com .

The combination of a change in market environment, plus a product, whose latent popularity transforms into an explosive increase in overt buying decisions, can have wide-ranging effects and extend into a long-term pattern of buying.

Company strategy and implementation are key

Club Car under new, possibly less risk averse ownership, may pave the way to a future generation of small vehicle models that fully complement the post pandemic trend to a dispersed living lifestyle.  Start-ups such as Arcimoto (NASDQ: FUV), ElectraMeccanica NASDQ: SOLO, and Ayro (NASDQ: AYRO, are attempting to set future trends in small vehicle design and performance and could well put competitive pressure on traditional golf car-type vehicle manufacturers.

The Arcimoto FUV—A new era in more versatile PTVs?

The three above-mentioned companies, as can be seen, are listed on the NASDQ exchange, waiting for your not-so-risk-averse investment.  All vehicles produced by these companies will out- perform today’s PTV in terms of speed, range, and comfort.  (“Comfort” is added as all models can be fully-enclosed, allowing all-weather use.)  And, all models are good to go, without restriction, on public roads.

Among the three entrants, the Arcimoto seems to be making the most headway.  It has announced groundbreaking for a new plant in Arizona and has recorded commercial sales well beyond the prototype stage.

Emergence of a new genre:  The autocycle

The combination of these attributes has warranted a new vehicle classification, according to MotorTrend magazine:  Autocycle.  The term implies automotive performance characteristics, and the fact they are classified as motorcycles by most DMVs.

This is not to say that the models most featured by these companies are optimal in every respect.  They do have their drawbacks.  In fact, the Solo produced by ElectraMeccanica did not fare well at all in a test drive review appearing in MotorTrend.  I will do a full review of the three companies’ vehicles in Small Vehicle Resource’s upcoming report on the small, task-oriented vehicle industry, mentioned above.  The review will include a comparison to the industry’s current PTV barn-burner, the Onward.

A big leap forward:  The Aptera

The Aptera

The Aptera, has something of the profile of a stealth bomber, in miniature of course.  It has a number of advanced features, including electric motors placed in the hubs of the two from wheels. (It also has an option for a third motor in the real wheel housing.)  Hub electric motors are very likely to be commonplace in electric vehicles of all sizes over the next decade.  

The Aptera will be one of the first.  While chargeable via the usual plug-in devices, the company advertises a perpetual charging feature through solar panels embedded in the roof, hood, and rear hatch of the vehicle.  Put together, the solar panels, plus lithium batteries and battery control system, result in what the company calls its Never Charge technology.  Accordingly, the Aptera is priced based on its distance options.  The 1,000 mile option (that’s right, 1,000 miles) is priced at $45,900, and scales down to $25,90o for the 250-mile configuration.  

How fast does it go?  Prowling around the internet, I came up with sources that said the top speed would be 85-95 miles per hour and acceleration, 0-60 in 3.5 seconds.  OKaay!

An added option is the free-flight drone component, which is inserted in the roof of the vehicle and is guaranteed to get you quickly out of traffic jams and speed you on your way.  …Actually, no, I just made that up, but, when you think about it, why not?

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.

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