Bob Acheson, financial manager with Barefoot Motors, drives one of the company's electric EUVs earth utility vehicle near the company’s headquarters in Ashland. Barefoot will unveil its Model One Thursday at Barefoot’s plant. - Jim Craven

ATVs, meet the EUV (earth utility vehicle)

ASHLAND — The way Max Scheder-Bieschin sees it, you don't need to sacrifice power for a quiet ride when tooling around on all-terrain vehicles.

While four-wheeling adventures typically conjure up images of vehicles powering up sand dunes and roaring through forests, Scheder-Bieschin has a more utilitarian approach.

The 48-year-old Ashland resident prefers four-wheelers quietly going about their work in pastures, trails and resorts. ATVs, make room for the EUV.

After two years of developing and testing four generations of electric-powered four-wheelers at Barefoot Motors, Scheder-Bieschin is ready to market his product — the earth utility vehicle.

Barefoot Motors' Model One, or M1, quietly hauls materials and pulls loads with the power equal to an 800cc gasoline-powered vehicle. Rather than announcing itself with a gas-fired growl, the M1 hums along, with the crunch of its tires louder than its power source.

A four-wheel drive version sells for $12,900, while a two-wheel drive design goes for $11,900.

Scheder-Bieschin and Mary Jo Gresens, co-owner and primary shareholder, not only believe in the viability of their vehicle but see it as a long-term money maker, as well.

"We wanted to prove that electrical technology was further along than people have been led to believe," Scheder-Bieschin says. "Most of the research and development has gone into cars or other on-road vehicles. It's more glamorous, but you also have to go through safety testing and that has nothing to do with the drivetrain."

Barefoot Motors is seeking its niche in the agriculture and utility arena rather than the crowded recreational market.

"The utility vehicles you see now are loud and all over the place, but they are used quite a bit in agriculture," Scheder-Bieschin says.

"There are about 1 million gas-powered utility vehicles sold a year, and half are sold on the heavy-duty side," Scheder-Bieschin says. "Our vehicle is relatively heavy and designed for people who manage land."

Scheder-Bieschin believes current technology and component quality dictates most off-road utility vehicles should be electric.

"Electric vehicles deliver superior power and there is more than enough range for most applications," he says.

There are no emissions or fumes added to the greenhouse mix and the ride is vibration-free. But that's just the beginning of the sales pitch.

"There are no tune-ups, no oil and filter changes, no radiator, no fuel lines, no spark plugs, no muffler or spark arrestor and no transmissions," Scheder-Bieschin says.

"You can clean parks and clear trails without disturbing wildlife and hikers," he says. "You can clear timber because there are no spark plugs, lowering the fire risk."

Power and torque are no issue with a motor that produces 40 horsepower the moment the switch is thrown.

Scheder-Bieschin says the earth utility vehicle costs 1 cent per mile to run, roughly 97 percent less than the 30-cents-per-mile cost of gasoline ATVs. The cost of driving a Barefoot Motors' M1 2,500 miles is about the same as operating a refrigerator for a year.

It takes eight hours to build a unit on the Ashland production line. Rather than sell EUVs through dealers, the company will directly market to grape growers, cranberry growers and agricultural gatherings, as well as at county fairs. If a repair is needed to the drivetrain, the company will dispatch a technician to the customer's site.

For now, Scheder-Bieschin says, Barefoot wants to get one product right before chasing after recreational users. Although there are other electric-powered vehicles in development, that's not a concern for Barefoot Motors. "Our main competition is the status quo; people are happy with gasoline ATVs," Scheder-Bieschin says. "The thing is to get them to think a little differently when there's actually a better product out there."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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