Tesla Cyberquad? If it's the future of ATVs, its competitors have yet to feel the heat.
The company's upcoming quad bike was unveiled alongside the Cybertruck in November 2019. Later details revealed the vehicle would be all-electric, hold two people, and at least initially be sold as an add-on for the truck. The on-stage demonstration showed the driver charging the ATV from the truck bed's rear sockets.
It could be the spark to ignite a new industry-wide shift. Tesla has helped popularize the electric car and spark a mass market shift. By the end of 2016 the company had only sold 200,000 cars in its lifetime, but at the time of writing, spurred by the entry-level Model 3 that launched in July 2017, the company is edging toward breaking the one million mark. Tesla is now the second most valuable automaker in the world.
If the electric ATV sector is worried about this coming competition, it's doing a good job of hiding it.
"The plastic and body of the Cybertruck and Cyberquad are very…8-bit?" Kelly Green, marketing manager for DRR, tells Inverse. The Ohio-based firm has been making performance ATVs for almost 20 years, and joined the electric ATV space in 2018.
The $7.6 billion global ATV market is making a rather quiet shift toward electrification, perhaps because they're comparatively niche compared to cars. Their design is specialized for going off road, both for business and pleasure. They need to be small and nimble, capable of driving over short distances of tricky terrain like forests and farmland. They can help with farm work, assist with search and rescue, transport people working on large-scale sites, or offer some lighthearted fun for tourists.
This unique focus informs the sort of specs you can expect. For ATVs, and their larger multi-seated UTV (utility terrain vehicle) brothers, short range isn't the holdback it may be in cars. Polaris ranks as the world's largest ATV maker by market share, and FarmingUK described the Ranger electric UTV as "powerful." But the two-seater, ideal for short farm work, only has a range of around 50 miles. It's tiny compared to Tesla's vehicles, but it doesn't need to be long.
DDR, which claims to be number one for youth racing ATVs in the U.S., has a number of electric vehicles in its lineup. There's the EV Safari in both 2x4 and 4x4 varieties, designed specifically for serious trail riding and work. There's the Stealth Electric ATV, designed more for search and rescue. In September, DDR unveiled the Lightning sport quad that Green describes as "similar" to the Cyberquad.
"Not much has been revealed about the product, so we can’t comment on the specifications," Green says. "We’d love to make a comparison when the specifications of their products are available."
It's a comment that could come back to bite DDR. When Tesla unveiled the Cybertruck, it demonstrated the vehicle winning a tug-of-war with a Ford F-150. Sunny Madra, a Ford executive, called on Musk to send a Cybertruck so the firm could do an "apples to apples" comparison. A company spokesperson later described Madra's challenge as "tongue-in-cheek."
But while the Ford F-series ranks as the United States' best-selling vehicle, the ATV is not exactly a mainstream vehicle. Buyers tend to have a specific use in mind, and firms have adapted to meet these tailored goals.
ATV firms generally expressed skepticism that an inexperienced Tesla was about to challenge their dominance in the market. The firms seemed skeptical that the Cyberquad, unveiled at the last minute as an add-on for the Cybertruck, would rival their specialized vehicles with clearer professional use cases.
"[Our upcoming vehicles] will have more utility value than the Cyberquad, enabling users to apply them to many more tasks (farming, estate management, construction, council services etc.) than the Cyberquad which is directed at the leisure sector only," Marc Monsarrat, UK sales manager for EcoCharger, tells Inverse.
EcoCharger, a UK-based firm, specializes in electric ATVs. The firm claims to have "the most powerful electric motor in the electric ATV sector to date," which means it remains confident its upcoming vehicles "will be superior to Tesla’s Cyberquad." This, combined with its focus on industry applications, means it's not too worried about the Cyberquad.
"We therefore welcome the entry of Tesla into the electric ATV segment," Monsarrat says. "We are confident it will drive further awareness and interest in the sector."
Although the Israeli EZRaider has targeted its self-titled machine at a similar leisure sector of the market, it also remains unconcerned. As a machine designed for standing up during use, looking something like a cross between an ATV and a Segway, the vehicle's design suggests it could avoid tackling the Cyberquad head-on by retaining something unique.
"Unlike the Tesla Cyberquad, the EZRaider is a first of its kind and has its own category in the ATV world," an EZRaider spokesperson tells Inverse.
Little is known about the Cyberquad's real specs. Fans previously speculated the Cyberquad looked like a Yamaha 700 Raptor with the gas engine ripped out, but the company denied any affiliation with Tesla's concept in a previous statement.
It's also known whether Tesla has much interest in making a serious play for the ATV market, or if it will remain a fun add-on for the Cybertruck. But if it does come to dominate the market, that could be more of a surprise to its competitors than the reveal itself.