When he’s out and about in public, Zach Johnson is often recognized as the Millennial Farmer, thanks to his popular YouTube channel. Since 2016, Johnson has been sharing his life in west-central Minnesota with people around the globe. His video content has generated nearly 250,000,000 views.
“The entire idea behind the channel was to try to reach people about what actually happens out here in rural America on farms, and why we choose the management practices that we do,” Johnson explains.
Managing the family farm includes choosing the best machinery for his corn and soybean operation. This spring, Johnson had the chance to put the new electric Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic through its paces on his farm. He spoke exclusively with Successful Farming after a day with the machine to recap his experience.
Q: The Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic is different from many UTVs farmers may be familiar with. Can you introduce us to the machine?
A: This is a Polaris Ranger that happens to be electric. The first thing I noticed is it’s quiet. There is almost no sound with it.
It’s smooth. I’ve compared it to a variable speed drill where you pull the trigger as much as you want. With this, you push the pedal as much as you want. If you want to go quick and you want to go now, you push that pedal down. Like you pull that trigger and it goes. That electric motor takes off.
It’s quiet, snappy, and smooth. It’s really nice to drive and it does everything that a normal Ranger will do.
Q: What were your first thoughts when Polaris said they were bringing you an electric vehicle?
A: I’ve been paying a little bit of attention, so I did have an idea as to what they were talking about. When it showed up and I was able to get in it the first time, I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t shocked because I kind of knew what was coming, but it does everything a Ranger will do.
A lot of people have a misconception that electric vehicles are going to be slower, they’re going to be heavy, or underpowered. I promise you; this is not that. If you’ve never driven an electric vehicle before, I think most people would be pleasantly surprised how nice they really are to operate.
It’s got some things that are different. When you’re driving, and take off, it is different to not hear that engine sound. It’s something to get used to.
This morning we had a trailer hooked to it, and we had a heavy load of seed on the trailer. When I took off with the trailer, it was like the exact same vehicle as it is without the trailer. I just went. It wasn’t lugging and digging for that power band to kick in to really start pulling.
Q: When the machine was delivered, what questions did you have?
A: The first question for me was, what is the range? How long is this going to last? If I’m going to use it farming, I might have to go 5 or 10 miles with it. And then I’ve got to get it back. The last thing I want is a vehicle that is going to die on me 10 miles from home when we’re busy. That was No. 1.
The other question I had was, does it have four-wheel drive? It does. It’s got all the features that a regular Ranger has.
Third, I wanted to know, will it pull anything? It does, and it pulls every bit as well. I haven’t pulled a heavy load very far with it, so I can’t say exactly how it compares to a regular Ranger going down the road, but my guess is that it would pull it better.
Q: Have you had the chance to test its battery capacity?
A: We started with 100% battery at 6 a.m. this morning. It’s now 2 p.m., so we’ve got eight hours on this thing. It’s done some sitting, but we’ve also been pulling trailers and driving through the mud and snow. I did go out and put it through the wringer a little bit. It was 19°F. when we started this morning, and it’s been cold all day. We’re down to 71% right now.
They tell me the Ultimate has an 80-mile range. [The Premium trim has an estimated range of 45 miles.] Obviously, that changes a little bit with what you’re doing with it. So far, I’ve been really impressed with it.
Q: Has anyone else on your farm had the chance to see this machine yet?
A: My kids have seen it and they say it’s pretty. They liked it when I fired up the dash and let them see the gauges and everything, but none of them have ridden in it or driven it yet. I think my son is going to laugh when we first take off and there’s no sound.
We’ve got a German Shepherd dog. When you fire up a regular Ranger, she gets all pumped up. She’s all excited, she’ll bark, and follow you. She’ll chase you around all day.
When I first walked up to this thing after it got dropped off, she got super excited for me to start it up and chase me. I pushed the pedal, and it just went. She was so confused because I’ve never had anything on the farm and not had an engine sound to drive away. It was funny!
Q: In terms of serviceability, does having an electric vehicle make you nervous at all?
A: If you enjoy putting the fancy exhaust on and hearing the engine sound, you’re going to be disappointed. If you don’t enjoy things like spark plugs and fuel filters and dealing with transmissions, this is your go-to right here.
From my perspective, I think the maintenance on this would be much less to worry about. You don’t have to change the oil every so often. You’re not going to have a spark plug go bad. If you want to jump in it and you don’t want to do a bunch of maintenance, I think that’s another advantage that’s going to come with the Kinetic.
Q: It sounds like you’re pretty experienced with ATVs and UTVs.
A: I’ve never run anything else that’s been electric in the UTV or side-by-side category. We’ve had Polaris snowmobiles and four-wheelers and side-by-sides. Actually, Victory and Indian motorcycles for years, too. My family has been pretty die-hard Polaris for a long time – my whole life.
Q: What tasks around your farm do you use a machine like this for the most?
A: The No. 1 thing that I like a Ranger for is scouting fields. It’s super handy to run all over in the fields and scout. Maybe I need to go mark a rock, or check a tile outlet or inlet.
We used to do that with four-wheelers, which is also very handy. These are a little bit easier to get in and out of. And then you can get the windshield, you’ve got a radio and a regular steering wheel. It’s got everything that your pickup truck would have, but you’re in a much more compact machine that can have a winch, has four-wheel drive, and will go through a lot more than a pickup.
A lot of times in the spring or fall, when we’re busy, if somebody breaks down you can have the tools in this and zip right across the field out to them. Then you’re not running a heavy pickup across the crop or across the field creating compaction.
I use a Ranger a lot just running around the yard. Our farmyard is big. It’s not that you can’t walk it, but sometimes if feels like you’re spending half your day walking from point A to point B to point C. This thing will zip you around the yard all day long, and you can bring your tools with you.
We don’t have livestock. If I had livestock, I could check fence with it. You could run right out to the cattle, or whatever you’ve got. Maybe you’re running from barn to barn if you’ve got poultry or hogs.