The times they are a-changin’. There was a time not that long ago when emissions regulations were considered the downfall of automotive enthusiasm. After that fuel injection was considered the downfall of automotive enthusiasm. Now electrification is currently being demonized as the downfall of automotive enthusiasm.
Every time the car world is faced with an obstacle to overcome, it shifts priorities, puts nose to grindstone, and makes everything better than it ever could have been. Every decade has created better cars than the one preceding it because of the advancement of technology, improved materials, better quality, and increased consumer demands. Why should we expect electrification to be any different?
I drive a 2011 Nissan Leaf, and I’ve seen firsthand the progress that has been made in EV technology over the last decade. The EVs of 2021 are infinitely better than anything made ten years ago. If that’s any indication of where we can get in the next decade, electric tech is going to be everything you want it to be and more. It’s not a question of if.
[Disclaimer: I am one of the co-founders of Autopia 2099. I am absolutely biased in favor of this show continuing to be a roaring success. It’s important to me, Autopia 2099, and Jalopnik that you know this information. This show could not have happened without financial support from Nissan, LiveWire, AEM Electronics, and Zero Motorcycles.]
Autopia 2099 exists for everyone. While EVs are currently still a tiny minority of the driving population of the United States, the market is growing in leaps and bounds with every passing month. Current forecasts show exponential growth, doubling every year for the next decade. Millions of electric cars have been sold, and millions more will be made next year. You may not be ready to give up gasoline yet, but it may not be too long before it may not be economically feasible to continue burning dino juice. Autopia 2099's aim is to get ahead of that horrifying future and bring optimism to the fore.
I love gasoline-powered cars. I have a half dozen of them in my garage/yard/driveway right now. I co-founded Radwood, one of the most successful automotive cultural movements out there right now, which is nearly totally powered by gasoline. But I’m also pragmatic about where we’re headed, and understand that there is virtually zero research and development being done right now on internal combustion engines. Every automotive OEM has begun the shift toward an all-electric future. Well, maybe everyone except Toyota.
If Radwood is about nostalgia for the driving experiences of the past, Autopia 2099 is about optimism for what incredible driving experiences are to come.
There have been electric vehicle shows in the past. EV car clubs have their monthly meet ups for coffee, I’m sure. And the Tesla Club of SoCal is about as active as any owner club can be. But nothing like Autopia 2099. This show casts aside the brand loyalty that others promote heavily, and lean into togetherness and inclusivity. We’re all fans of electrons here. Whether they’re hybrid — like the new Acura NSX Type-S or original Honda Insight — plug-in hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell electric, or full battery electric (as most were), we’re all family here.
When I first kicked off this program, I had no idea quite how wide a spread our cross-section of electric vehicle culture would showcase. Having now seen the show, it was much better than I could have expected for a first time show. We had everything from gorgeous finished swaps to in-progress projects, and everything from original owner high-mile long-termers to showroom-fresh purchased-last-month machines. Two of the most enthusiastic attendees were extremely proud of their Mitsubishi iMiEV and Toyota RAV4 EV respectively.
Unlike Radwood, the motorcycle contingent was much bigger than expected. With direct support from LiveWire and Zero contributing to some incredible machines appearing, I was happy with the two-wheel contingent. What I didn’t expect was a further few LiveWire owners riding up to the event and a pair of Energicas! Prior to this event I’d never even seen an Energica. Add in a couple e-bikes and other mobility devices for good measure.
Let’s talk about the bikes for a minute, because I was absolutely enamored with the stuff on display. First of all, custom bike maker and Art Center professor Alex Earle chose Autopia 2099 as the place to unveil his newest LiveWire-based E/Mulholland build. Not to mention the SMCO LiveWire race bikes.
Over in the Zero camp was the one-of-one Huge Design SM prototype unveiled at the One Moto Show in 2019 and a bike built by the company’s engineers powered by a Zero motor, but in the chassis of a Honda Grom, lovingly referred to as the Grom Reaper.
If nothing else, these motorcycles prove just how much fun can be had with electric motors and battery stacks. Not everything has to be huge batteries and massive range. Build me a sports car with 100 miles of range and a curb weight under 3000 pounds, and I’ll be extremely happy.
Just like with Radwood, the whole point of Autopia 2099 was to create a space for like-minded enthusiasts to gather and feel welcome. I literally spent half the day running out into the spectator lot to grab people with electrified vehicles who felt like their car wasn’t show-worthy. One gentleman in an electric-swapped Mini Cooper was convinced his project wasn’t clean enough to be displayed, and I had to twist his arm a bit. This is the kind of show that doesn’t discriminate. We actively want to see your first-gen Prius or super-rare 2006 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, or new Nissan Leaf or whatever you have. Bring an electrified machine and a good attitude and you’ll be making friends in no time flat.
One of my favorite display cars was this 2020 Tesla Model 3. The owner said his only goal was to make the car as eye catching as possible, and he did that with bold graphics, big aero, colorful wheels, and air ride. When you don’t take yourself too seriously, you have more fun. The owner of this car spent the whole day giving kids demonstrations of the air lift system and the aftermarket “exhaust” system. That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to do with my ridiculous-but-fun Nissan Leaf project.
All of these cars and motorcycles are driven and ready for more. Electrification is here now and has the potential to change not only the world, but car culture. If you missed out on Autopia 2099, you can find cars like this sharing the road with you on your commute, at your local grocery store, or maybe a cars and coffee. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be passed by one of them on your favorite local twisty road. You might not get it just yet, but I promise you soon will. Getting butts in seats is the number one thing that sells EVs, and probably always will be. If you try one out, you’ll understand the appeal.
If you’re still missing the appeal, come out to Autopia 2099 next year (we’ll have more than just one event in 2022, so go follow the Instagram for more info when it becomes available) and the people who own, maintain, and built them would be happy to talk to you about their pride and joy.