Now that I’ve had the Polaris Ranger EV for over 5 months now, I can give a full run-down of it’s specs and capabilities as well as the advantages and disadvantages of an electric UTV.
Why Electric and Why Polaris
First and foremost, my wife and I wanted a quiet ride while we cruised our property. We wanted to be able to talk in a normal voice and also be less alarming to wildlife. Also, when we stop, we have absolute silence. No sound of an engine idling.
Secondly, electric UTVs – like electric vehicles in general – are low maintenance. The main tasks are checking and topping off the battery electrolyte levels, occasional greasing, and changing the trans-axle oil once a year. There more detail on this later in this post.
Last but not least, electric UTVs are environmentally friendlier than their gasoline counterparts.
The best way to evaluate the specs of the Ranger EV is to compare it to models with similar specs, which are the popular Ranger 570 and the Ranger 500. I used Polaris’ comparison tool on their website to highlight the key differences.
Right off the bat, you can see you pay a premium for electric, with the EV costing $1,700 more than the 570 and $3,000 than the 500. These are the base MSRP prices. So you really have to value the advantages of electric drive for the EV to be worth the premium price.
The EV has a 48V High-efficiency AC-induction motor compared to the 4-stroke single cylinder gasoline engines in the 570 and 500.The electric motor is rated at 35 HP in the comparison, but this is wrong. It is actually 30 HP, which is 14 HP less than the 570 and 2 HP less than the 500. Even so, I have found it has plenty of power for my needs. In fact, it has the same load and towing capacities as the 570 and 500.
All three models have the same drive system, which I’ll cover in more detail shortly.
The EV is powered by 8 deep cycle lead-acid batteries. And the Transmission and final drive for the EV is direct drive with low-noise gears, compared with the automatic Polaris variable transmission of the 570 and 500. The PVT is Polaris’ version of a continuous variable transmission commonly found in UTVs. You’ll get to see and hear more of the EV transmission later in the video.
The dimensions and capacities of the models are identical, with the exception of the vehicle weigh where the EV weighs 689 pounds more than the 570 and 697 pounds more than the 500. This is due to the weight of the batteries.
One other curious but not significant difference is the EV’s wheelbase is one inch less that the 570 and 500. The extra weight of the batteries gives the EV a low center of gravity for very good stability.
The EV does not have the option of electronic power steering like the 570 and 500, but I have found the manual steering is not a problem.
Another interesting difference is the size of tires. The EV has 25x9x12 Carlisle All Trail tires front and rear compared to 25x8x12 front and 25x10x12 rear for the 570 and 500. They all have stamped steel wheels, MacPherson Strut front suspension and Dual A-Arm independent rear suspension.
All three have 4-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, but the EV has the additional note that it has dual-bore front and rear calipers. Also, the EV has a hand-activated parking brake rather than a park position on the gear shift.
The Ranger EV is available in two color schemes: Avalanche Gray like mine, or Pursuit Camo.
Now for a closer look at the Ranger EV features.
The dashboard is essentially the same as the 570 but with very different instrumentation, which you’ll see up close shortly. It has driver and passenger cup holders, three storage areas, and a glove box.
Also, the Ranger EV also has a full-range tilt steering wheel.
The seats have independent bottom cushions for the driver and passenger but a common bench style back cushion.
Both seats flip open for access to storage trays. I keep the charging extension cord on the passenger side. BTW, the EV does not come with an extension cord. You will have to provide your own.
The trays are removable for access to the batteries and are held in place with Velcro strips. Under the driver’s seat, I keep a pair of gloves, and some LockNRide ties downs for the cargo box. Again, the tray is removable for battery access.
Looking at the front, the ranger EV is equipped with a brush guard bumper, a brush guard plate, mud guards, and MacPherson Strut front suspension. There’s even a winch mount for an optional 4,500 lb winch.
Looking at the rear, you’ll find the 30 HP AC electric induction motor. Noticed I said AC and not DC. That because the eight 12V batteries are wired to provide 48V DC which is then converted to AC so that the motor can be brushless, which makes it essentially maintenance-free. The rear differential is lockable when you need extra traction. Here’s the Dual A-Arm independent rear suspension. And there’s also a 2” hitch receiver.
The dump bed is made of a thick and durable plastic and can carry up to 500 lbs of cargo. It also has a dump assist mechanism activated by a handle on the driver’s side. The tailgate is easy to operate with simple but secure latches that have holes for a wire lock safety pin, if desired.
When you first turn the ignition key on, the display briefly shows the runtime hours, then the battery charge level. BTW, the manual says to avoid letting the charge get below 20%.
Below the LCD display are a set of indicators including forward, neutral, reverse, parking brake, and electrical system error which is also used to indicate that I’ve done something stupid like push the accelerator with the parking brake on. The one you don’t want to see on is the one that indicates the motor is overheated. Not to worry though. If the motor does get to hot, the system automatically reduces power to the motor to avoid overheating. If it does get overheated, the system won’t run at all until the motor has cooled down. Fortunately, I have never seen that one come on.
The other controls on the dashboard include the direction selector for forward, neutral and reverse.
There is also a drive switch, which is shown in one-wheel drive, or turf mode. To my surprise, this mode works great 90% of the time on our property, so it usually stays in this mode.
The center position is rear 2WD with locked differential. Use this only if you lose traction on a muddy trail and only engage when the rear wheel is not spinning. You don’t want to forget and leave it in this mode when driving on concrete or asphalt. It will cause excess wear on the drive train and your rear tires.
The top position is automatic AWD, which means it will automatically switch from rear wheel drive to AWD anytime the rear wheels lose traction. When the rear wheels regain traction, the front gear case will automatically disengage. AWD will not engage at speeds over 5 MPH. The manual says it’s best to engage AWD before getting into conditions where front wheel drive may be needed. If the rear tires are spinning, release the accelerator to stop the spinning before switching to AWD. It also cautions that switching to AWD while the rear wheels are spinning may cause severe drive train damage. Always switch to AWD while the rear wheels have traction or are stopped.
The speed range switch provides low, medium and high ranges. The low range setting has a maximum speed of 10 MPH, but provides the most torque for towing, hauling loads, driving on steep hills or aggressive terrain. I have found this to be ideal for our property, allowing us to go slow yet easily climb the steepest hills with minimum drain on the batteries.
The Medium range has a maximum speed of 15 MPH and is recommended for maximum range, which BTW the manual says is 50 miles but I’m sure that’s on flat paved roads. However, I’ve noticed that the battery level declines noticeably faster on the open road at higher speeds.
The high range has a maximum speed of 25 MPH and the manual says this range is best for trail riding. That may be true for flat smooth trails, but it is certainly not the best for the trails on our property.
There is also a switch for the headlights, which have two 50W halogen bulbs. The picture below gives you and idea of how well they light up the landscape, though the picture doesn’t really do them justice. They are actually quite bright and fine for night driving.
And there is a charge status indicator. Fast flashing green means the batteries are less than 80% charged. Slow flashing means that they are more than 80% charged. And a solid green light means they are fully charged and the charger is in maintenance mode.
The hood is made of plastic and opens by releasing the rubber straps on either side.
Under the hood, you’ll find the charger cord, the charger, the fuse box, a 10 A terminal block for 12V accessories, and the brake fluid reservoir.
Charging is simple. Just plug a 14 gauge or heavier extension cord into the charging cord. And plug the extension cord into an outlet.
The manual says it takes about 8 hours to fully charge the batteries. I typically plug it up at the end of the day and it’s fully charged by the next morning. However, I have not had it discharged more than 80% so far.
BTW, due to the potential build-up of explosive gases, I don’t charge it in the shop unless I have the windows open and the shop gable fan on. Most often I just pull it under the shed off the back of my garage and charge it there.
The Ranger EV has a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs, and while I wouldn’t try to tow a load of gravel uphill with it, it will easily tow building materials, ladders and tools up hills.
And what about street performance? Well, it’s not really street legal but out here in the country, you can get away with the occasional sight-seeing drive. At up to 25 MPH. My wife an I enjoy the occasional road trip on the gravel roads near our home.
Maintaining the Batteries
Checking and maintaining the batteries are done monthly. You top off the batteries the same way you would with any lead-acid battery, adding distilled water to each cell as needed. The batteries have convenient locking caps.
But access to all of the batteries isn’t convenient. To get to some of the batteries, you have to remove two panels, one on each side of the vehicle. Each panel has six plastic fasteners to remove. A flashlight helps me see the battery acid level. I check the battery level frequently but have only had to top them off twice in 5 months and it takes about a gallon of distilled water.
Pros & Cons
So let’s cover some of the pros and cons of the Ranger EV, starting with the pros.
- At the top of the list is its quiet ride. The low noise combined with the ability to navigate tough terrain has made it popular with hunters.
- That quiet operation makes it easy to have conversations without having to talk loudly or shout.
- It requires much less maintenance than gas-powered Rangers.
- And of course, it is kind to the environment.
On the cons side:
- It’s more expensive than the comparable gas-powered Rangers.
- It has limited range compared to gas-powered Rangers that can carry extra gas with them. Refueling a gas-powdered Ranger takes minutes. Recharging the EV takes hours.
- With a top speed of 25 MPH, it is slower than the gas-powered Rangers which can go over 40 MPH.
- Finally, it is not well suited for cold climates. The lead acid batteries cannot put out as much power in cold weather as they can in warmer climates. In fact, the manual says that the EV will not operate if the battery temperature is below 14 F or -10 Celsius. Not surprisingly, the EV is most popular in temperate climates like the west coast and the South. It rarely gets that cold here in Gerogia, and when it does, I will be staying inside, so its no problem for me.
If you think the Ranger EV might be a good fit for you, I recommend downloading the manual from the Polaris website and read it carefully to understand all its capabilities and limitations.