Starting the Revolution

Electric Start on Mountain Sleds

September 2015 Feature Phatty Dyer Viewed 3675 time(s) Web Exclusive

Technology. It’s a big word with an even broader scope. It fills our lives with convenience and craziness.

In today’s sled world technology is pushing sleds into realms only dreamed about a few years ago. I can remember wishing my sleds were lighter and more powerful and spending hours putting modifications on to make it so. Sled technology has come so far now that you can buy 200-plus horsepower sleds from the factory or an almost sub-400-pound sled from the factory. Someday soon we might even get both those numbers together in one package.

But will all the great electronic technology—electronic fuel pumps, fuel injection, gauges with GPS and color maps—it seems one key convenience item stands etched in its 1990 archaic glory: the electric start system. 

In my truck (read 2008, 7 years old) I am able to carry my key in my pocket. As I get close to the truck the door automatically unlocks for me. I don’t even have to put my key in an ignition anymore. The truck senses if the key is present or not and I can start the vehicle with a push button. 

Remember when you used to have to kick start your dirt bike? I do. And I hated it. I wasted so much energy kicking those bikes that I had nothing left for the ride. New dirt bikes all come equipped with little red buttons on the throttle side with small compact starting systems that add minimal weight. The bikes fire right up in the most precarious of spots deep in the mountains with just the touch of a button. 

A few years back I had the opportunity to ride a few sleds that had electric start on them. After spending half the day yanking a pull cord and half the day turning a key I can tell you without a doubt that turning the key saved a lot of energy throughout the day.  I made the decision to never go without electric start again. 

Last year during an extremely strong storm with neck deep powder we lost track of miles and time in our giddy powder thrashing and ran 4 out of 5 sleds out of gas. Due to the 60 mph winds and sub-zero temps, we just left the sleds to come back the next day to get them. Anyone who has yanked on a pull cord on a sled left in the mountains at sub zero temps will tell you it’s not a pleasant experience. Having electric start and watching my sled fire on the first key turn made the others green with envy.

The new 2015 sleds boast cool technology like RFID tethers or chip encoded identification “keys.” But order them with electric start and you will likely find 15 feet of heavy gauge wires, a 20-lb lead-acid battery and starter motor from 1990. With all this cool technology available, why has no one given thought to improving the electric start process?

While we cannot force manufactures to move to better starting systems, we can control one element of the system. The battery. The days of a 20-lb lead-acid battery are over. In snowmobiling lightweight seems to be king or at least queen and so for those opting for convenience of electric start I offer a lightweight alternative to the lead-acid battery. The ultra-lightweight lithium battery.  

There are many choices, styles, sizes of lithium batteries out there today: WPS, Alient, Battery Tender, Braille, Earth X, Ballistic, BikeMaster, Shorai just to name a few. For snowmobiling there are a few key components of lithium batteries we need. It has to be waterproof. It has to provide the correct cranking amps. It needs to have built in short-circuit protection. 

I ended up going with Earth-X because of their patented Battery Management System. I prefer to pay a little more for a safe battery rather than leave it to chance. I recommend everyone do their own research. These batteries can drop 10 to 15 pounds off your sled immediately. They can also be mounted in various positions to free up room if you need to add things like a turbo to your sled. Did I mention you can have an electric start turbo? I loved mine. 

So until sled manufactures get with the times and update the archaic electric start systems, do yourself a favor and pick up a lightweight lithium battery.

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