We don’t cover the UTV, side-by-side, or Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) market much, but when an interesting one comes along, it can be hard to ignore. Take this Desert Beaver, for example. It’s an all-electric vehicle from Cenntro built off its TeeMak. If that’s all gibberish to you, well, it was to us, too, when we spotted it at the 2023 CES in Las Vegas. It’s designed not just to drive around your ranch or campus doing menial tasks, but can also be driven on low-speed roads while looking like a golf cart interpretation of an old desert camouflaged HMMWV. While the standard TeeMak doesn’t look quite as tough, it’s far more utilitarian than it lets on.
What is a Cenntro TeeMak?
The Cenntro TeeMak is a vehicle intended to be sold as something you can drive around on private property. As an LSV, it’s limited in speed, payload, and use where it has a maximum speed of just 25 mph, only legal to be driven on roads with a limit of up to 35 mph (and in states that allow such LSVs), and can only carry a payload of 700-800 pounds to meet the 3,000 pound GVWR as required by law. When sold as an off-road vehicle (ORV), all of that changes; the limiters come off to allow it to speed up to 34 mph and have a payload of 2,425 pounds. Unfortunately, even though this is an EV, you can only order it one way or the other and there is no switch to flip to make an LSV-spec example an ORV one or vice-versa.
Regardless, in a world of high-speed off-road UTVs and side-by-sides, the TeeMak’s top speed sounds a bit slow. But again, it’s a work vehicle meant to be driven on campuses, ranches, and anywhere walking isn’t just an inconvenience but also infeasible due to distance. In fact one buyer has already committed to buying TeeMaks for its factory in the southern U.S. The size of this factory is perfect for the distance the TeeMak is capable of traversing as well as its payload capacity for hauling heavy stuff.
Speaking of distance, the 15-kWh lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery pack in the TeeMak limits it to a range of around 65 to 70 miles. Again, another thing that doesn’t seem like a lot, but its predecessor—the Metro—had an even smaller 11.5-kWh battery and those customers never complained about range. However, it can only charge at a AC Level 1 rate using a standard 110 volt outlet, meaning it will be very slow to charge. Quicker Level 2 AC charging will be available on the second generation of the TeeMak.
The TeeMak and the Desert Beaver are rear-wheel-drive only and the roughly 2-hp maximum (10 hp nominally) motor is mounted directly to the live axle, which in turn is located via an under-axle leaf spring suspension. The front uses a MacPherson strut design joined by a manual rack-and-pinion steering system. Stopping power comes from ventilated disc brakes in front and drums out back. Again, this isn’t a jumpy, slidey, faster-than-it-should-be UTV—nor is it a hopped-up golf cart; it’s a work vehicle. By Q3 to early Q4 of 2023, the TeeMak will have a four-wheel-drive option and this is also when it may get a switch to govern itself as a LSV or an ORV in the same way some eBikes do now.
The TeeMak vs. The Desert Beaver
While Desert Beaver is decked out like the aforementioned HMMWV—right down to its military-stamp-letter-script “DESERT BEAVER” tailgate lettering, it carries over several useful features from the standard TeeMak. A roof-mounted light bar is standard but comes as a four pod light instead of a full bar, the front bumper comes with a winch mounted from the factory, equipped with side steps, and the bed is capable of dumping by a powered hydraulic tilt but also features drop down sides to make loading it easier. If you’re wondering, no, the main battery does not power the hydraulic system, lights or accessories. The TeeMak uses a standard 12-volt battery under its hood to do that. The TeeMak also comes with a “headache” rack to protect the occupants for anything that happens to slide forward in the bed.
The additional features that are on the Desert Beaver are the mesh windshield guard, the singular light bars on the roof and front bumper, the in-bed spare tire mount, the tubular roll bar in the bed, and the bedside mounts for extra gear. The Mario Ziarelli Extreme Forest tires you also see on the Desert Beaver are not standard for the TeeMak—in fact, they are kind of too big for it—but the U.S.-market TeeMak will see a more off-road worthy tire than TeeMaks sold elsewhere around the globe. Also, while the U.S.-market TeeMak will get leather seats, you won’t get the seats you see on the Desert Beaver nor its suede dashboard. The Beaver also has around 18 inches of clearance where the TeeMak has quite a bit less, there will be a lift kit as an option. Another potential option are the square LED headlights and blacked out nose panel on the Desert Beaver, but the standard TeeMak comes with round LED headlights and a body colored panel on its nose.
One option not seen at CES or on the Desert Beaver are the zippered plastic doors—similar to the upper half of Jeep Wrangler half-doors—that enclose the cabin for better protection against the elements. While the lithium-ion battery Metro came with air-conditioning, there’s no plan that the TeeMak will have that as an option since it’s being sold as an open-door utility vehicle and LSV.
Price and Availability
The standard TeeMak is planned to begin production in early Q1 of 2023 at Cenntro’s Jacksonville, Florida facility, where 1,500 to 2,000 units will be produced per year. For context, the Metro sold 4,200 units per year. It’s pending a final certification for roof crush here in the U.S. and once that’s passed, the TeeMak will go on sale starting at $20,000. If you’re looking to replicate the Desert Beaver—and we don’t blame you because it’s as adorable as it is utilitarian—you’ll spend closer to $30,000.