PROJECT UTV: Dave McCoy’s E-Rhino

Electric cars, electric motorcycles and even e-bikes are all the rage these days. EPA restrictions, government renewable-energy incentives and cheaper electricity are all contributing factors to the boom. However, none of those reasons sparked the development of Dave McCoy’s e-UTV project. You see, Dave lives in a California town at the base of the Eastern Sierra Mountain range that has tons of off-road trails, but like most of California, they can’t be connected together without using public paved roads. This access hindrance has kept the area from booming into one of the great ATV destinations in the country. But if McCoy has anything to say about it, things will change. If they don’t, Dave will have a UTV that will still allow him to enjoy the great outdoors.

Dave is a true pioneer of adventure sports, and his latest hobby for well over a decade is enjoying the dirt trails in Owens Valley, California, with his wife Roma, kids, grandkids and great-grandchildren.
Dave is a true pioneer of adventure sports, and his latest hobby for well over a decade is enjoying the dirt trails in Owens Valley, California, with his wife Roma, kids, grandkids and great-grandchildren.

THE MAN
Dave McCoy is not your average off-roader. He has spent the majority of his entire life—all 100 years— seeking adventure and exploring the outdoors. During the first part of his career he worked for the L.A. Department of Water and Power, then 65 years were spent building the world-famous ski resort known as Mammoth Mountain. He sold the mountain at the age of 89 and has spent the last decade exploring his love for photography primarily from the seat of his Yamaha Rhino. McCoy does own a Honda Pioneer and a Viking as well. You can see his work and learn more about his early life at www.davemccoyphoto.com.

McCoy has spent countless hours spearheading an effort to get trail connectors updated in the small towns along the Eastern Sierra that include Lone Pine, Big Pine, Independence and Bishop, which are all places we ride. This area is flanked by the Sierras to the west and the White Mountains, and further east is Death Valley. All of it contains great off-road trails on par with what you would find in Utah.

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E-RHINO
While dealing with all of the trail-designation red tape, McCoy started on another project. After several attempts to make his early Yamaha Rhino California street-legal, he found a way to speed up the process. In California, the hardest part about converting any off-highway vehicle to become street-legal is passing sound and smog emissions. So, turning his Rhino into an electric vehicle solved those problems. The rest of the process was straightforward—add a turn-signal kit (EZ Turn Signal), install DOT tires (BFG), a horn and you’re done. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple, but that’s the meat of it.

Dave’s Rhino is not a glorified golf cart, either. The construction of it took years sourcing the best batteries money could buy, along with the most efficient electric motors available. Yes, we said “motors.” There is a separate motor powering the rear of the Rhino and another for the front. On the pavement, this allows the driver to use only the front engine for going around corners and cut out some of the tire bark that the live-axle rear end gives.

Charging time is five hours and can be done through a standard household 110-volt system or at an e-car charging station using 220 volts.
Charging time is five hours and can be done through a standard household 110-volt system or at an e-car charging station using 220 volts.

The biggest challenge was range. Dave wanted to be able to drive all day without the worry of running out of battery power. In order to do this, his fabricator, Shane McNulty sourced thirty-two, 3.2-volt, 300 Ah, lithium-ion batteries and situated them in the modified chassis. Scott Smith of High Point Solar took care of the wiring duties.

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Yes, the car is heavy now, weighing about 2000 pounds, but McCoy has no interest in jumping the Rhino or even going fast over bumps or rocks. In fact, most of Dave’s riding is at about 15 mph, although the Rhino is capable of going in excess of 70 mph. McCoy likes to travel at the slower speeds and enjoy every inch of the trail looking for things to photograph. To date, Dave’s longest journey was over 60 miles, and he drove back to his house with having only used 3/4 of the battery life. They estimate the current range to be around 100 miles. Recharge time is five hours and can be done at a 110- or 220-volt power source. There is no backup power system installed yet, but Dave is usually followed on longer rides by friends and family in gas-powered UTVs.

This is the rear AC50 electric motor producing 73 horsepower and 110 footpounds of torque. This thing would give the new turbo RZR a run for its money.
This is the rear AC50 electric motor producing 73 horsepower and 110 footpounds of torque. This thing would give the new turbo RZR a run for its money.

We went on one outing with Dave, and the E-Rhino was impressive to say the least. Acceleration was instant, and it literally pinned your back against the seat. The 8-inch-diameter, 122-pound AC50 motor produced 73 horsepower and 110 foot-pounds of torque and cost $4500 apiece. We did have a chance to climb some sand hills and experienced the E-Rhino’s incredible power. Of course, that kind of driving wears the batteries down quicker. With one or two motors in service, you can modulate the throttle very smoothly and consistently. But, having the ability to use them separately over certain obstacles allows it to work great in the really tight stuff. The e-Rhino is a work in progress, but definitely more impressive than what we have seen come out of the off-road manufacturers.

BFG has recently jumped into the UTV game with an off-road-specific tire. This tire used here is an off-the-shelf, light truck tire you can pick up at any automotive tire shop.
BFG has recently jumped into the UTV game with an off-road-specific tire. This tire used here is an off-the-shelf, light truck tire you can pick up at any automotive tire shop.

EASTERN SIERRA TRAILS
For more on the trails in the area, we took the following note from the people at www.access-advocates .org via the Inyo County Planning Department. “On October 7, 2011, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 628, which allowed for Inyo County to establish a pilot project to designate combined-use highway segments up to 10 miles long on unincorporated county roads to link existing OHV trails and trailheads on federal Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service lands, and to link OHV recreational-use areas with necessary service and lodging facilities. This is in order to provide a unified system of OHV trails in the Owens Valley. The proposed combined-use routes are all on existing streets and roads that are part of the Inyo County and City of Bishop maintained mileage systems.” The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in July 2015, so trails are being signed and maps created as we speak.

Not only will this give visitors to the area a new recreation opportunity, it might help more small towns in California move in this same direction. You can visit www.access-adv ocates.org or www.inyocounty.org for more details, and we will see you out on those trails.

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In many rural areas in some states, all you have to do to make a UTV street-legal is add turn signals, a horn and DOT tires. These small turn signals are from EZ Kit.
In many rural areas in some states, all you have to do to make a UTV street-legal is add turn signals, a horn and DOT tires. These small turn signals are from EZ Kit.
Gears were fashioned onto the AC50 electric motor, then strong belts connected them to the driveline. The stock front and rear differentials remained in place.
Gears were fashioned onto the AC50 electric motor, then strong belts connected them to the driveline. The stock front and rear differentials remained in place.
The shop Dave’s fabricators work in is probably something you would have seen Henry Ford in with a few modern amenities. The “Tracker (e-Rhino),” as they call it, has gone through many transformations over the years and now is ready for regular use.
The shop Dave’s fabricators work in is probably something you would have seen Henry Ford in with a few modern amenities. The “Tracker (e-Rhino),” as they call it, has gone through many transformations over the years and now is ready for regular use.

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