The City of Long Beach was an ironic choice for the Electrify Expo, a multi-city event showcasing the best and most innovative trends of the electrification movement in the US. Located 20 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, it is the second-largest container port in the country and was once a pillar of the old-school industrial economy.
McDonell Douglas, an aviation company that employed 160,000 people in the area, was a key element of the Arsenal of Democracy in WWII and its Long Beach factories filled the skies with passenger airplanes and helicopters. The company was acquired by Boeing in 1997 and soon after, the aviation industry of California faded into oblivion. The huge factories that made the aircraft are mostly gone now, but a few hangars remain and have been repurposed. Mercedes Benz renovated a hangar as a west coast parts warehouse. At least they kept the iconic sign.
Since then, the seventh-largest city in California has had its ups and downs. Once one of the crown jewels of American industrial might, Long Beach is now mostly a tourist attraction with heavy machinery and manufacturing replaced by hotels, food trucks, check cashing stores, and cannabis dispensaries. As with most of California, there is much disparity between residents. Very wealthy people live up against the water in balmy enclaves while the east side of the city is packed with people and the worst air quality in the state.
Yet, Long Beach still tingles with the California dream, and from the ashes of yesterday, the Electrify Expo showcased a renewal of American innovation and grit. It is North America’s #1 Electric Vehicle Festival, and it was a smashing success. This traveling EV lollapalooza made a stop by the Long Beach Convention Center on May 20-21 and Electrified Mag was there. Here are the highlights.
The show was attended by major industry OEMs who answered questions about electric vehicles, electric bikes, e-scooters, boats, and more. There were also many venues to test drive the vehicles although wait times were long. The Electrify Showoff, an all-EV car show sponsored by Japanese tire company Yokohama, was held amongst the vendor booths. Not a huge turnout of cars, mostly pimped-out Model 3s, but good news for the automotive aftermarket because regardless of propulsion, car enthusiasts need wheels, tires, floor mats, tint, audio, lowering kits, and seats just like the dinosaur ICE folks.
Old-school domestics seemed to be a big crowd-pleaser. We really liked the 1960 Ford pickup over at the Shopmonkey booth. Built by Fourmost EVs out of Mesa, Arizona, this mid-century Blue Oval hay hauler got a new lease on life but you wouldn’t know it by the exterior. With a 260hp electric motor and a range of 200 miles, it’s the perfect Home Depot go-getter. It sat just right with baby moons and the bed was the perfect spot for the battery to roost.
EV conversion shop Current LA brought their 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible and it created a big hoo-haw as well. Restored to a very high standard, it straddled the fine line between So Cal cruiser and lowrider. Resplendent in tomato red with wire wheels, fender skirts, and a continental kit, it shimmered n the So Cal sun. Under the hood was an electric motor that mimicked the look of a small-block Chevy V8, and the trunk was packed with a nicely integrated battery and sound system.
Porsches were another popular way to rejuvenate an old horse, and several vendors were present. Jeremy Barras of Bellingham, Washington-based, Advanced Performance Parts brought his “crate” EV drivetrain that can be customized to fit almost any car.
He also brought the company’s 1983 Porsche 911 SC test mule with its electric powertrain installed, and it was an amazing feat of engineering. His team carefully located all of the contents of the crate into that little old-school Porsche! A unique aspect of the build is that the Porsche’s original manual transmission and clutch were retained and coupled to a new, 300-hp electric motor.
Lowered sport compact EVs are not immune to electrification and Tjin Edition brought an orange Mach-E on bags that was perfectly installed in the trunk and was a reminder all cars look better with bigger wheels and lower to the ground. This car debuted at SEMA in 2021.
Inn a sea of e-bikes, scooters, and Teslas, lurked a very long, very yellow land-speed car and fans cooed with delight. Team Vesco Racing and reVolt Systems recently set a scalding new 353 mph national record for electric vehicles. Originally built in 1958 and running fuel until 2020, it is now packing 1500 electric ponies.
Equally amazing was driver Eric Ritter’s one-way top-speed run of 357 mph. Eric reported the car was still accelerating at the end of the run. For EV detractors who equate electric propulsion with gray-beard college professors from Portland, Oregon, it’s time to let that all go. Electric vehicles will infiltrate and mold every automotive segment they enter.
Lastly, e-bikes were everywhere with several tracks set up for test rides. If you are in the market for an e-bike, Electrify Expo is where you want to be. Like craft beer, there is an entire cottage industry of US-based, boutique bike companies that are setting the standard for electrified bikes with good old American ingenuity.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, most of the components are sourced from overseas, but the innovative design and the aggregation of the parts into something unique is a fine science all by itself. We were amazed at the range of two-wheel conveyances, from bikes to scooters to full-tilt motorcycles, whatever you might fancy lay before you at the Long Beach Convention Center.
Last, but not least, check out this $250-500K electric RV trailer from LivingVehicle. Although it does have onboard propane as a backup, it is all electric and takes the silvery Airstream vibe to the next level. Built on an alloy frame, it is sheathed in aluminum exoskeleton and would cut a very stylish look at any location. The interior could have come out of Architectural Digest and even has a washer and a dryer. P.S. Bring lots of money.
As the day wound down, and as I packed my gear back to the car, remnants of old Long Beach peeked back at me. The deco buildings, the Queen Mary moored at the water’s edge and older surviving structures reminded me of the many seasons this iconic California city has seen. Maybe my mind was playing tricks on me, but the smell of salt water, suntan oil, popcorn, and perfume of a million summer nights still lingers in the air.
In many ways, Long Beach mirrors the country. We lost our way for a bit at the end of the 20th century, but the electrification of the automobile and mobility is proof that cloudy times are not forever and sunny skies always return. Electrify Expo was a vibrant showcase of a smarter, cleaner tomorrow that’s just around the corner. Be sure and check it out for yourself when an EE festival comes to a town near you in 2023. Go here for the schedule and ticket info.