Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Electric Off-Road Vehicles Work


Types of Electric Off-Road Vehicles

Off-road all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and side-by-sides have been given an eco-friendly electric makeover. An ATV is a three- or four-wheeled vehicle with a seat in the center. An example of an electric ATV is ZAP's Dude. It needs to charge for about four to six hours, and then it can travel up to 25 mph (40 kilometers per hour) for a range of up to 25 miles (40 kilometers). The manufacturer says it easily can tackle hills and tow 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) [source: Zapworld]. Electric ATV's can't travel far because of the need for a recharge, but they can tackle bumpy, rugged ground. That makes them ideal for farmers, ranchers, hunters and rangers who just need to patrol a limited area.

In side-by-side vehicle, the driver and passenger sit next to one another in something that resembles a souped-up golf cart. Polaris' RANGER EV Side-by-Side has an 11.5-kilowatt battery that takes about eight hours to recharge using a standard 110V outlet. The battery can power the vehicle for slightly less than 50 miles (80 kilometers). Its 30 horsepower electric motor can carry it at a top speed of 25 mph (40 kilometers per hour).

Electric off-road vehicles are even being outfitted for military use. The Special Operations Unit of the U.S. Air Force is reportedly testing four prototypes of an electric off-road vehicle. The Clandestine Electric Reconnaissance Vehicle (CERV) can fit inside a military CV-22 Osprey aircraft; once it hits the road it can travel 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour over a range of 200 miles (322 kilometers) [source: Page] . It can even be modified to include a generator, in case an outlet isn't immediately available out in the desert or wherever the troops may be. Using electric vehicles in combat has advantages -- they're quieter than gasoline-powered cars and they're harder to detect on infrared radar.