Power Wheels and The Larger World
The popularization of motorized transportation in the form of the automobile was easily one of the most defining innovations of the late 19th to early 20th Century. Automobiles, in an ironic twist of fate, although meant to be a tool of convenience, became one of the most important forces in the shaping of modern human civilization. Cars, and the market for them, have had a hand to play in defining cultural developments ranging from city planning and roadway engineering; to the petroleum industry and late 20th Century geopolitics. In most western societies learning to drive and purchasing one’s first car have almost become a rite of passage into adulthood. And like with many other aspects of latent adult life, like playing house, it’s something that children enjoy emulating. Power Wheels have bridged the gap between childhood imaginings and real world activities most the 30 years.
It’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to assume that you have, at some point in your life, seen a child pushing all of 3 mph on an adorable miniature motorized monstrosity meant to resemble some brand name car with a 5 figure price range. This is such an easy trope to relate to, that it’s hard to imagine a time in contemporary urban and suburban life before them. The fact is that, despite their social ubiquity, these amazing products represent multi-decade spanning technological and marketing innovations.
The idea for a model car ride-able car geared to children was original developed by Italian stroller company, “Peg-Perego”. In the beginning, Peg-Perego worked at making mechanical peddle powered locomotives for children, but then somewhere around the year of 1980 they made the novel leap towards a battery powered children’s automobile. The concept stuck and was handed over to one of Peg-Perego’s newly formed subsidiaries, “Pines of America”. When the original line of toys that would later become known as Power Wheels was released, it came in 3 main product varieties. Each product was meant to parallel a real world concept. These original powered model vehicles for kids were a hit, but it took several more advances in marketing before they truly hit the level of success that they are known for today.
One of the single biggest marketing advances came in 1984 with the purchase of the Pines of America subsidiary by San Francisco based toy company Kransco. Working in tandem, Pines of America now under Kransco pushed the envelope for this amazing product for kids. If Peg-Perego takes the title for developing the original concept, then Kransco takes the title for nurturing the concept of Power Wheels into being the best toy, during its era, which it could be. The engineers working between these two companies fined tuned these toy cars to the point where essentially the Research and Development put in to Power Wheels was a just a smaller scale factor of that done for actual street legal autos. Power Wheels may just be a toy, but they have become the best possible toy to model driving for kids. Furthermore, on the marketing side of things, it was actually Kransco that pioneered the name “Power Wheels”. Prior to this, these toys went under a variety of different names that varied by region and retailer. In 1986, some unnamed marketing genius came up with the idea of licensing the Jeep name and piggy-backing a line of their Power Wheels onto it. Kids just love imitating their parents. Bridging the gap between playfully imagined toys and real world cars just that much further helped to take the brand to all new heights. Popularity surged as a result and sales numbers for Power Wheels were surpassing the million unit mark by the year 1992.
This kind of success draws attention and in the case of Power Wheels it garnered the attention of the behemoth toy manufacturer Mattel. In 1994 Power Wheels, under Kransco, was sold again to Mattel. Subsequently, Mattel quickly placed Power Wheels under the umbrella of Fisher-Price and continued in the marketing vein of Kransco by expanding licensing arrangements over the years. Starting with Harley Davidson in 1999, eventually Fisher-Price added over 100 different licenses to the Power Wheels brand enabling a wide variety of “experiences” for toddlers and parents alike. Mattel also worked at improving the electrical work for Power Wheels in ways that have helped define the modern variant of the product line. Chief among their upgrades was overhauling the wiring systems and connectors to prevent overheating. Additionally they streamlined the battery systems to use a single 12v supply instead of two 6v supplies setup in series.
These days Power Wheels is not the only brand of battery powered cars for kids. Peg-Perego, after coming to the realization of what an amazing (read profitable) product they had originally created, now makes their own variety of cars for kids. The Peg-Perego versions aim to differentiate themselves for the competition by using 24v batteries for an exhilarating edge of your seat 6mph experience. Newcomer to the market, Radio Flyer, also makes their own models that draw on more exotic real world licenses as their signature.
Now, marketplace competition is great for the consumer, but where do you begin in choosing a great Power Wheel type toy for your child and what are the best Power Wheels on the market right now? Well, to save you the trouble we compiled a list of a handful of the best Power Wheels toys for kids right now, along with a review of each one to help get you started. So, without further ado let’s just into the best Power Wheels for kids right now.
Radio Flyer – Tesla Model S Electric Kids Car
First and maybe most exotic on our list of reviews is the Tesla Model S. This car for kids is not merely a licensed look-alike, but is the fruit of a partnership between the kids car company Radio Flyer and the Elon Musk’s mega brand Tesla Inc. Just like with the real world line of cars that inspired it, the Radio Flyer Tesla variant is pushing the boundaries of technology in its field. Easily the best feature of the Model S is its iconic Flight Speed Lithium Ion Batteries. As parent, you know how much energy kids how to burn. The battery on this kid’s car makes it an ideal match for your child playful enthusiasm. They can be conveniently charged just like road worthy Teslas, in as little as three hours. Further, you can buy additional interchangeable batteries that can be charged externally while your child rides in their Tesla. In addition to this, the Tesla comes in great aesthetic features. For instance, the paint jobs available for this kid’s car are exact carbon copies of real Tesla cars. The model also features working headlights, sound systems, and “fronck” (i.e. a boot at the front). One main drawback is the price tag, which is significantly higher than its competitor brands. However, if you want to gift your child with a cutting edge driving experience, Radio Flyer’s Tesla Model S is the way to go. You can purchase your model-s on amazon for $789.
BMW i8 Concept 6-volt Electric Ride-On Car
Engineered along similar lines of German standards of perfection as its namesake, Dynacraft’s kid’s model of the BMW i8 certainly gives the Tesla a run for its money. In many ways, Dynacraft’s entry on this list represents a more cost effective version of the previous product. While it is slightly less customizable than the Tesla, in some regards, it certainly looks great. Though, it’s worth pointing out that still does come with a host of great features, like integrated sound system and working lights. You can purchase this car in stylish, but simple black or white decals. With a maximum speed of 2.5 mph the i8 is one of the slower cars that you can get for your child, but it does provide a slightly safer riding experience. Where the i8 really distinguishes itself is the integration of an extremely user friendly reverse gear. To engage in reverse, simply turn the car on and shift the control leveler towards the rear. When the child press the gas pedal the car will reverse. This little feature certainly adds to the realism of the overall experience. Dynacraft’s BMW i8 Concept is available on amazon for the great price of $215.
Power Wheels Ford Lil’ F-150
Produced by industry power house Fisher-Price, Ford Lil’ F-150 is might be the most enjoyable overall child car experience. The Ford F-150 for kids is the first on our list to sport multiple seats. This is great if you have more than one child to cater for, especially if one child is younger than the other. They can both share the experience together. In many ways the concept that the car models sets the tone for its user experience. Little things like a step for smaller children, mirrors, seat belts, and a trunk help it to give kids the rugged feeling of driving a real truck. Now to give you a heads-up it’s important to point out that it is the heaviest car on our list; however, it more than makes up for this with a nice top speed of 3.5 mph. It also comes with a reverse gear in a similar vein to the i8. A nifty extra feature that helps to distinguish it from its competition is that of a functioning radio. Like a lot of its other features, it’s a small detail that adds a lot to the experience. The best part of the Power Wheel’s Ford F-150 is the price. It is easily the most cost-friendly car on our list. Head over to amazon to get your kids an F-150 for just $125 today.
Peg-Perego John Deere Gator XUV
The John Deere Gator XUV for kids is brought to you by the same company that pioneered the cars for children concept. As such, you can be sure that you are in for a treat. This robust platform is another great buy for parents with multiple children. Furthermore it one-ups the Power Wheels model previously reviewed by adding the feature of adjustable seats for growing children. This makes it the most reusable product on our list. It also comes with a great 2 year warranty. Peg-Perego is known for fitting their children’s cars with batteries sporting the highest voltage. This in turn allows for users to achieve the greatest speeds. In the case of this model, even though it comes with an industry standard 12v power supply, parents can expect their children to reach top speeds of 5mph. Now this might be of some small concern for some, but, to balance this, the Gator XUV comes with a 5mph lockout feature for beginners. The XUV comes with a nice range of supporting accessories, but offers the least choice for paint jobs. All said, Peg-Perego’s John Deere is solid platform and one of the best kid’s cars on the market at the moment. You can purchase the John Deere XUV for around $470 via amazon.
A lot of parents today can remember the joy and excitement of being a child and playing around with the Power Wheels of the 80’s and 90’s. Just like with toy dolls and Legos, Power Wheels have become a source of reliably wonderful experiences for children over the last several decades. Today, with multiple competing brands on the market you have an amazing array of choice in purchasing one of these great toys for your children. Furthermore, as the industry has become more competitive, standards, especially in safety, have risen and in many cases prices have fallen. Regardless of your budget, you can find the best modern variation on Power Wheels for your child.