How Off-Road ATVs Work

By: Ed Grabianowski

Electric ATVs

Most electric ATVs are designed to perform very simple tasks, but that's changing.
Most electric ATVs are designed to perform very simple tasks, but that's changing.
George Rose/Getty Images

A few innovative companies have begun to offer electric ATVs. Although there have been electric ATVs on the market for years, they are mainly "low-performance" vehicles intended for children or for very simple tasks. The new breed of electric ATV aims to be as powerful as a fully sized gasoline-powered ATV. Instead of a gasoline engine, electric ATVs use electric motors powered by lithium ion batteries charged by plugging the ATV into an outlet.

What are the advantages of electric ATVs over gas-powered models?


  • Quiet -- This not only makes them friendlier on neighbors' ears, it makes them more useful for hunters who don't want to scare away their prey. Police forces could also make better use of quiet ATVs when patrolling urban areas. What's more, anyone who does a lot of work on an ATV would surely appreciate not having a buzzing gas engine underneath them all day.
  • Cleanliness -- Because they aren't regulated as strictly as cars, a gasoline-powered ATV generates more pollution than the average car, and they aren't very fuel efficient. Many farms produce some electricity with solar panels or waste reclamation, so an electric ATV would be a very environmentally friendly machine.
  • Price -- The initial price of first-generation electric ATVs is higher than the price of a gas-powered ATV. However, high gas prices mean that an electric ATV that sees heavy use will pay for itself within five years.
  • Better torque and acceleration -- ATVs are typically used at low speeds to do heavy work. Electric motors are particularly good at generating the torque necessary for those types of jobs.

While electric ATVs haven't achieved mainstream popularity yet, their market could grow in the coming years. In fact, even the Mythbusters' Jamie Hyneman is involved in electric ATVs -- he played a role in the development of the Model One electric ATV prototype produced by Barefoot Motors.

Read on to the next section to learn all about ATV shocks.