DOES THE FUTURE OF ATV RIDING AND RACING HAVE ROOM FOR ELECTRIC MOTORS?

Hear us out, there are some major benefits.

By Jeff Henson

No, Dirt Wheels is not going “woke” or jumping on the EarthFirst hypocracy cruise. We still love the sound of a dozen-plus 450cc high-performance sport quads bouncing off the rev limiter as they exit the first corner. We’ve also got a few classic 2-stroke builds coming together in the Dirt Wheels garage. There is no sweeter smell than Maxima Castor 927 mixed with a tank of high-octane fuel burning through a Paul Turner/Fat Boy 2 exhaust, short of fried bacon.

However, and this was difficult for us, we’re looking at EVs a little more optimistically lately, but from the standpoint of performance

Last week, Trey Canard proved that electric dirt bikes are competitive at the pro level on the Honda CR Proto dirt bike. – Honda

Last week, Honda factory motocross racer Trey Canard demonstrated that the new Honda CR Electric Proto dirt bike is competitive with the current crop of modern 450cc motocross bikes. At the eighth round of the All Japan Motocross Championship in Saitama, Japan, Canard pulled off two of three holeshots, finished second in moto two (he crashed in moto one and three), and had the second fastest lap time of the weekend, just 0.7 seconds slower than the fastest. There is no denying that electric motors have an advantage when it comes to instant torque. Electric dirt bikes, like this CR and the Stark Varg, are also infinitely tunable to rider ability and changing terrain. The Stark Varg is the real deal with up to 80 horsepower on tap, 100-plus ride modes that mimic everything from a 125cc 2-stroke to a 450cc 4-stroke, up to six hours of ride time, and it fully charges in less than two hours. The current price tag on the Stark Varg is that of a higher-end “Works Edition” motocross bike, $12,900 for the 60hp version of $13,900 for the 80hp bike. Information on Honda’s CR-E is limited as it’s still in prototype form.

Trey Canard nailed two of three holeshots and missed the fastest lap time of the day by less than a second on an electric-powered Honda CR dirt bike. – Honda

Are you still waiting to be impressed? Well, forget what you think you know about EVs and consider the benefits they could bring to closed-course racing. I live in Phoenix, Arizona, the fifth most populous city in the USA, and still growing rapidly. We used to have several motocross tracks throughout the Valley of the Sun just 20 years ago, like Speedworld MX, Canyon Offroad Park, ET MX Park, and Grinding Stone MX, just to name a few, and all within a 45-minute drive. But a number of issues, including expansive growth and noise complaints, shut everything down within the city limits. Today, we have to drive halfway to Gila Bend (ACP MX) or Tucson (Motoland MX Park) for track time, and only on the days when ATVs are permitted on the track (usually a weekday).

Motocross racing might not be as exciting to watch without the element of sound, but building new all-electric motocross tracks within the city limits could be possible. Photo by Ken Hill

If nearby homeowners (whose homes weren’t there when the motocross tracks first opened) couldn’t hear us banging out laps, would those tracks still be operational? Possibly. Could all-electric motocross tracks find their way back into the inner city now that noise isn’t an issue? Most likely. We’d also see more indoor motocross facilities pop up, which would be very attractive to Arizona racers and spectators when outside summer temperatures climb to 110 degrees. Up north, riding indoor tracks during winter would become even more popular, and without the need to expel exhaust fumes from the interior.

The same goes for trail riding, as battery tech is advancing quickly. Charges take less time and last longer, and the ability to quickly swap battery packs is currently being engineered. It’s only a matter of time before we see more EVs at the Baja 1000. Sure, we’ll occasionally miss the sound of our 2- and 4-stroke engines, but if Karen can’t hear you having fun from her back porch, she’s got nothing to complain to her HOA about. Your kids can also ride in your backyard and she won’t have a clue.

Will EVs eventually take over gas-burning vehicles completely? No. California’s Governor Gavin Newsom is delusional for even thinking that goal is attainable. Lithium is non-renewable, and EVs have already proven that they come with their own environmental problems. Lithium mining is dangerous, harms the soil, and causes air contamination. Finding ways to dispose of spent battery packs safely is also a problem. They run without changing oil and clean air filters, but you’ll still need a hefty gas generator to charge batteries overnight and between motos. Again, we’re only intrigued by the performance gains and opportunities that a ‘quiet’ high-performance vehicle could present.

Are new electric sport quads a possibility? From what we’ve discovered, they’re already on the way!

Our optimism about EVs is purely about performance, bringing motocross tracks back into the city, and keeping riding areas open with the out-of-sight-and-sound approach. They’ll never replace gas engines completely, but for some, they have advantages regarding convenience and performance. Will electric motors make their way into an ATV or side-by-side chassis soon? They’re already here with more on the way. On the UTV side, the Volcon Stag is finally entering production, and Vanderhall is currently accepting deposits for the all-new 404-horsepower Brawley EV. Electric engines have already taken their place in the youth ATV market from players such as KAYO and CFMOTO, and it only takes some research on the US patent website to see full-size EV ATV deployment from the major ATV players is already underway.

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