Polaris has signed an exclusive 10-year agreement with Zero Motorcycles to use its battery powertrain technology on a line of electric snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.
The deal with the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based motorcycle company will manifest with a new vehicle scheduled to go on sale late next year.
Polaris currently markets GEM neighborhood electric vehicles and an electric version of its Ranger utility task vehicle (UTV), but the new vehicles will expand into performance segments.
“We've sold over a billion dollars worth of electric vehicles in the last 10 years, but none of it's been high-performance powersports vehicles,” Polaris CEO Scott Wine told FOX Business.
“They've been more in our adjacent markets business to really as we embarked on this ramped-up strategy concept. We looked in across the globe and who could be the best partner for us.”
Wine said he was confident Polaris, which makes most of the internal combustion engines it uses, could have developed the new electric drivetrains, but that he decided it wasn’t worth the investment when Zero already had proven tech that offered high power motors and power-dense battery packs that are perfect for the space constraints of the vehicles Polaris specializes in.
Zero sells between 2,000 and 10,000 motorcycles in annual sales, according to company CEO Sam Paschel, and has a lineup of off-road and street bikes with up to 223 miles of range per charge.
Polaris isn’t taking an equity stake in Zero, which will be acting as a supplier under the arrangement. Wine didn’t reveal what the first vehicle would be, but said it will be a unique electric model to kick off the arrangement, which will be followed by electric versions of its other vehicles.
“Over time, we expect the vision to be that we'll be able to offer our customers and dealers the choice of an electric or internal combustion engine powertrain,” he said.
Wine added that he used to be a naysayer about electric vehicles in this segment, due to power, price and range limitations – the 30 hp Ranger EV sells for $12,000 and can only go 50 miles between charges, for instance – but that the Zero powertrains address all these concerns. However, he doesn’t see Polaris becoming a primarily electric brand anytime soon.
“I think there's a very good chance that it's a material and meaningful part of our business, but I doubt it'll be a majority of our business,” Wine said.
Along with the snowmobiles and off-road vehicles, Polaris-owned Indian is working on an electric street motorcycle. Wine can’t say for sure when it will go on sale, but that it’s still a few years out and not yet part of the agreement with Zero motorcycles, although the relationship could evolve to include it in the coming years.
Indian has introduced an electric motorcycle for kids with a 15 mph top speed through a collaboration with Razor that’s modeled after its flat-track race bike and sells for $749.99