Electrify Expo Is the Venue for All Things Electric
Electrify Expo continues to pick up where traditional auto shows have left off. This year’s cross-country Expo tour launched last weekend in Long Beach, California, on its way toward a total of seven stops across the country, each one drawing in people considering buying an electric car, crossover, motorcycle, minibike, scooter, bicycle, skateboards, or even surfboards.
“We have doubled in size compared to Long Beach last year and compared to the whole year last year,” said founder BJ Birtwell. “We’re over a million square-feet now. Just in bike manufacturers alone we have 80. We have 14 or 15 auto manufacturers. We’ll do over 200,000 consumers this year through our gates.”
What’s driving the show’s success?
“There’s peak interest right now in electric vehicles and people wanting to understand: How far do these cars drive? How fast can they charge? Where can I charge? This is the best place to get those questions answered.”
Among the carmakers who have committed to all seven stops across the country is Tesla, newly aware that there is now actual competition from legacy automakers in the EV market, and pivoting from enthusiast support alone to actual marketing.
“How are you going to best maintain market share? By making sure that you’re getting as many butts in seats as possible, because you want people to experience your product. That is the moment that is going to translate to a sale.”
In addition to test drives, there is data to be mined.
“Some auto manufacturers use this as a market research mechanism to understand what consumers are asking, what they’re wanting to learn about, and then they take that back and reformulate marketing communication strategies,” Birtwell said.
And it’s not just Birtwell saying that.
“Electrify Expo is the perfect venue to introduce the award-winning 2023 Outlander Plug-in Hybrid to customers looking to make an initial move into electrified mobility,” said Mark Chaffin, Mitsubishi Motors North America President and CEO.
Kia America showed off its subcompact Niro EV, sporty new EV6 GT, and the three-row Kia EV9.
"Electrify Expo is the premiere gathering for top companies and executives in electrification to share knowledge and discuss how we’ll continue to work toward a seamless transition to all-electrified vehicles,” said Steven Center, COO & EVP at Kia.
Even tire makers got in on the switch to electrification, with Bridgestone debuting its new Turanza EV grand touring tire, designed specifically for premium electric vehicles, and Yokohama sponsoring the new Electrify Showoff custom EV show.
“It’s great to see a new wave of enthusiasts creating a new EV car culture," said Andrew Briggs, Yokohama VP of marketing.
Among the hundreds of products at the show, read on to see what we thought was truly unique and innovative.
Lightship L1 Travel Trailer
A big complaint about all those electric pickup trucks is that they lose so much range when you attach a trailer. Well, what if the trailer had its own batteries and electric motor? That’s the plan for the coming Lightship travel trailer. Between its frame rails is an 80-kWh battery, as big as in many luxury EVs, that powers not only all the accessories on this luxo-rolling home, but also powers two of the rig’s four wheels.
“The battery and motor get the e-Truck (in this case a Rivian) back up to its 300-mile range,” said co-founder Ben Parker, who was a battery engineer at Tesla before this.
In Road Mode the Lightship draws on the 80-kWh battery to power a single electric motor in the middle of the forward axle. In camp mode, assuming you didn’t completely drain the battery getting to your campsite, the battery offers a week of off-grid livin’.
The 27-foot-long trailer lowers down to a 6-foot-9-inch height for travel, offering three times the aerodynamic efficiency of, say, an Airstream. It then cranks up electrically to 10-feet-tall when parked. Inside, it is spacious, with a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room all in one big open interior. The windows raise outward for flow-through airiness (they say they’re working on screens to keep the skeeters out). Solar panels on the roof offer a constant 2 kW of power to recharge the big battery.
The drawbacks? Approach and breakover angles look mighty slim, suggesting it might scrape or even get stuck over all but the flattest terrain, and prices start at $125,000. Also, patience is a virtue, since production doesn’t start until the end of 2024.
Riese & Mueller Packster 70 eBike
There were supposed to be 80 different electric bicycle makers at Electrify Expo, each with their own take on electrification of two wheels. So you really had to do something interesting to stand out among them all. Riese & Mueller, parked in the Bosch booth, stood out with this cool transport pod for everything from a week’s groceries to a couple of very happy kids. The front bucket of the Packster 70 consists of two front-facing seats, each with impressive 5-point belts, and room to spare in front of that. Your kids will only be this small for a short time, so take advantage of every minute you can.
This setup would be perfect for small town commuting to Mommy (or Daddy) & Me classes, to story time at the library, or to a day at the beach. Mom/Dad will stay in shape and the kids might fall asleep in their comfortable confines. The motor, battery, and controller are all Bosch-made, suggesting, at least, reliability. The bikes are built in Germany and are available from bike stores in the US for around, brace yerself Helga, 10 grand. Ouch. However, for one parent staying at home with the kids in a small town or leafy suburb, this could take the place of a second car.
APP EV Systems Electric Porsche 911
This car was built by racer, parts maker, and founder of the company, Jeremy Barras.
“I was looking for ways to use our carbon-fiber parts capability and I’m also a Porsche enthusiast,” said Barras.
Indeed, there are some EV converters with nice motors but no way to mount them in the engine bay. APP EV Systems not only makes all the electric parts for the conversion but makes some very specific carbon-fiber mounting pieces to bolt the whole thing in place.
APP EV makes a complete EV conversion kit for the 1972-1989 911, that includes a BorgWarner electric motor, A123 battery modules, AEM controller, and all the carbon-fiber mounts you’ll need to keep everything in place. The result?
“This drives exactly like a Porsche,” Barras said. “This is all about keeping the car exactly as it was before.”
That’s right down to the five-speed manual transmission and the clutch pedal to engage it. APP EV Systems is also working on kits for the C2 Corvette, first-gen Mustang, the 1968-1975 BMW CS models, and two eras of Mercedes SL: W113 (1963-1971) and R107 (1972-1989). Depending on the application, range varies from 225 to 275 miles. Recharging is done via a standard J1772 Level 2 plug.
Why rebuild those complex engines when you can replace them and operate them for pennies on the dollar!
Price is $70,000 “…complete, plug-n-play as shown in the crate.”
Conductive Classics’ (Relatively) Easy Electric Swap For Your Classic Car
This sure sounds like anyone could convert just about anything to electric power. Sitting on a stand at Electrify Expo was a big electric motor mounted straight into a classic five-speed manual transmission called, altogether, the Electra-Five E-Train Package. You simply remove the existing drivetrain from your pre-1975 classic American car or truck and bolt this thing in.
The $12,500 kit includes the 120-hp, 160-lb-ft electric motor, five-speed manual transmission with adapter plate, motor controller and mount, flywheel, clutch and release bearing, some modular-looking “universal motor mounts,” and a transmission mount. The battery has to be sourced separately. Conductive Classics says it prefers to use seven Tesla battery modules. If you want Conductive Classics to do the complete conversion for you, including sourcing that Tesla battery, well, pricing and configuration vary by project but complete conversions start at $45,000.
Vision Marine Technologies 180E Electric Outboard Motor
Sneak in and out of the fishing hole without scaring the walleye with this all-electric, self-contained “Electric Powertrain.” The package includes 70 kWh of batteries routing electricity to a 180-hp outboard motor. Two banks of batteries stow below deck and provide electricity to the motor. Charging is done via universal 30-amp 220-volt shore power “available at almost all marinas.” Range is 70 miles at 20 mph, they say.
The system works best with boats in the 18-26-foot range. When is it coming? “The E-Motion will soon be available through OEM boat manufacturers only. We do not currently sell direct to consumers,” Vision Marine said. No price was listed. Vision Marine also makes those cool little electric boats for cruising around the marina, the ones with the fringe around the edges of the canopy.
Dragonfly DFX Scooter
American cities are literally littered with those Lime and Bird electric rental scooters, knocked over and laying half in the gutter like so many drunken tech titans whose company has just sold for billions. If you don’t feel comfortable grabbing the grips of some crusty looking Lime variant, consider buying your own e-Scooter. Dragonfly is a unique take on the class, with four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel-steer that leans into turns like Gerry Lopez at backdoor Pipeline. Specs say it’ll go 50 miles (unconfirmed by us) at speeds up to 20 mph (sorta confirmed by us) thanks to two 550-watt hub motors powering the front wheels. Drum brakes stop the scooter at the rear.
All four wheels lean into corners and it does feel a lot more comfortable than those two-wheeled foldable scooter variants with hard urethane wheels and no suspension on which we almost got arrested once at CES (long story). When you arrive at the tech startup, just fold your D-Fly in half and store it under your work desk (where you’re probably also sleeping because there’s no affordable housing in Silicon Valley). Prices are much less than a car, starting at $3995. Look for them in August (-ish, said the D-Fly guy).
DingoMoto EZ Ride PlainJane Snowmobile
DingoMoto is not from Australia, it wasn’t founded by an Australian, and it has no connection with Australia whatsoever. So why is it named DingoMoto?
“The founder’s dog is named Dingo,” a rep told us at Electrify Expo.
As good a reason as any. While other brands concentrate on fancy, high-design artsy frames that look like they were built just to win design awards, DingoMoto’s minibikes are pure, simple, inexpensive functionality. These are the things you dreamed of owning in junior high school. They are not fancy, and you won’t be slicing apexes like you will on your Ducati Panigale V4, but for a pit bike, neighborhood scoot machine or college campus commute vehicle they are perfect.
The snowmobile is mostly just one of the mini bikes with skis in the front and rubber treadmill in the back. The skis are even cute—they look like they were bought at a yard sale and sawed off. The rear tread is kind of cool, too. The skis flip up or down as needed and bolt into place. Chances are you could swap out the tread for a wheel pretty easily, too. This would be the perfect thing to keep in your Cessna 172 for ground-based transport.
The EZ Ride PlainJane Snowmobile is $3295, while the PlainJane with two tires and a battery (everything you need to cruise) is $3800. But they’ll also sell you whatever parts you want for building your own scooter.
async A1 Electric Scooter
If the DingoMoto is pure practicality and cost-savings, the async A1 is all about futuristic design. “Inspired by the mysteries of outer space, the A1 features a sleek and streamlined appearance,” the company says.
Unlike the Dingo, the A1 looks like it was designed specifically to win design awards, which I don’t know if it has yet. It also looks like it’d be comfortable enough for a short daily commute, though its claimed 150-mile range might grind your raging kiester into Hamburger Helper. That’s just an assumption, I didn’t ride it.
The large vertical piece of square cross section aluminum tubing houses the monoshock rear suspension, while the front wheel rides on dual inverted forks like a motorcycle. The 1.92-kWh Samsung 21700 rectangular battery slides into the back of the large horizontal square tube on which the rider sits. The belt-driven rear wheel is spun by a motor that can be dialed up or down to suit your needs, from 750w to 2500w peak power. It’ll hit 35 mph and offers a range of from 80 to 150 miles claimed.
Price is $2799 for a July delivery.
Hypercraft Crate EV Drive System
This company got its start when the founder wanted to build electric snowmobiles but couldn’t find any parts, so he decided to make his own EV systems.
“It’s not really an eCrate but we can provide a complete package,” said Kirk Miller, formerly of AEM. “How much power do you want? How much range do you want? Let us know and we’ll configure it.”
Hypercraft has built electric drive systems for everything from Trophy Trucks to mining equipment to tour buses to at least one of those swamp-conquering airplane-propeller-driven air boats you see in Florida swamps. They had a good showing of electric 4-Wheelers at the most recent King of the Hammers.
Hypercraft makes what it calls, “Complete, configurable EV drive systems (which) bundle battery(ies), electric motor(s), programming, wiring, and a user interface display into a single durable package—creating a complete system that takes the guess-work out of integrating electric propulsion.”
How much does it cost? How fast do you want to go?
Rawrr Mantis Electric All-Terrain Bike
This is one stylish electric dirt bike.
“It’s affordable, accessible, and easy to ride,” said CEO Andy Leisner, formerly publisher of Cycle World. “No matter who you are you’ll have fun.”
Leisner cites FIA and AMA motocross champion Grant Langston as a Rawrr rider.
The Mantis is a small, lightweight (160 pounds) fun and flingable dirt bike that makes almost no noise, thanks to its 7500-watt electric motor. Range is 25 miles in Sport mode, up to 75 miles in Eco 1 mode. Zero-to-60 mph comes up in 2.9 seconds, though, and it can haul around 265 pounds, so have that second box of Ding Dongs.
Price is $4999.