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Karen Lewis and Gwen Hoheisel (standing) demonstrate how an electric utility vehicle can be used for herbicide spraying with the WeedSeeker technology.

Karen Lewis and Gwen Hoheisel (standing) demonstrate how an electric utility vehicle can be used for herbicide spraying with the WeedSeeker technology.

Karen Lewis and Gwen Hoheisel, Washington State University Extension educators, say an electric all-terrain vehicle that they’re evaluating has met or exceeded all their expectations in research plots.

The vehicle was purchased for from Barefoot Motors of Ashland, Oregon, which is one of the few ATV suppliers to use lithium iron phosphate batteries. It has an 80-volt battery pack.

Lewis and Hoheisel have used the vehicle extensively for trials with the WeedSeeker technology and also used it to tow an experimental scout that Vision ­Robotics is developing that weighs over 1,000 pounds.

“We actually pulled the Vision Robotics scout with it for several days in a row,” Lewis said. “It’s met all of its payload requirements.”

The ATV is fitted with cruise control, and is easier to drive at slow, constant speeds than a vehicle with a gas motor would be, Lewis said. It has a top speed of 25 miles per hour.

They plan to study battery life under Washington conditions, focusing primarily on cold weather performance.

Mary Gresens, owner of Barefoot Motors, said her company designed and built the ATV. She has sold the same model to vineyards but not yet to a commercial orchard.

The lithium batteries should last for most of the life of the vehicle, and are recyclable, whereas lead acid batteries need to be replaced about every 18 months, Gresens said. The drawback is that the lithium battery adds significantly to the cost of the new vehicle, but people who are committed to sustainability and protecting the environment might feel it worthwhile, she believes.

Polaris has introduced a side-by-side electric Ranger utility vehicle with a 30- horsepower, 48-volt motor and a 25-mile-per-hour maximum speed. It uses lead acid batteries.