Who is Going to Make the Electric Miata?

Sooner or later I’m going to have to replace my little car. It is the second Miata I’ve owned, and I have no regrets. The car is fun to drive, inexpensive to own, and I’ve got some great memories tied up in that car.

I hope that I still have a few years of service left, but there’s another part of me looking at what’s going on in the automotive market, and I like what I see. Mostly. So I’ve been thinking more and more about the requirements for my next ride. I want a little car I can drive across the country with the top down (and be able to put the top up when necessary), nimble on curves, and other than that I want to score the most Hippie Points possible.

I want an electric Miata with access to charging stations all over this country.

Tesla seems like a candidate to produce this car, and they have an answer to the fueling issue (as long as I stick to major highways). In fact, there’s a charging station going up very close to my office. Free fuel!

Tesla hinted about creating a new 2-seat convertible, and they intimated it would be absurdly fast. (“Maximum Plaid”) Also, therefore, very expensive. Lately the company has announced that their new roadster is on the back burner, because (not in their words) it’s a niche vehicle. There are few willing to pay for maximum plaid.

I don’t need a supercar! I don’t even want one. Mazda (and MG and Alfa Romeo before them) demonstrated that people drawn to this mode of transportation don’t need thrust to push their eyeballs out the backs of their heads. They need adequate performance and a nimble little chassis. This is not rocket science. Well, batteries are heavy, so there is some rocket science. But that’s solvable.

I widened my search. I found other electric convertibles, and they fell into two distinct categories: golf carts and supercars. Detroit Electric, Future Mobility, BMW, and others all seem to have forgotten who drives convertibles in this world.

Side note about the word “convertible”: I don’t consider a car to be convertible if you have to decide before you leave the garage whether the top will be on or off for the duration of your trip. That makes top-down road trips impossible. That important distinction pretty much clears the table even of supercars. There’s just nothing left. No electric convertible at all.

If Mazda plans to make an electric Miata, they’re doing a great job looking like they’re completely behind the curve. Volkswagen is probably my best hope, perhaps under the Audi or Porsche badges. Or there’s the rumored Beetle Electric Cabriolet.

But none of those companies are building the charging network that Tesla is. Tesla really understands this part of the automotive experience. Road trips should not require internal combustion. But Tesla doesn’t get that road trips are better with the top down.


14 thoughts on “Who is Going to Make the Electric Miata?

  1. If Volkswagen (Audi/Porsche) built your dream car, would you buy it? Can you rationalize your few personal hippie points from the company that so egregiously purposefully polluted?

  2. weird coincidence – I was just at an enviro conference which had an electric miata built by a high school science team using parts from a wrecked nissan leaf.

    It is interesting thinkinng about the underserved niche markets because I would love an electric minivan. Nowherre in sight.

    • Ah, the minivan. Such an incredibly pragmatic vehicle, and so uncool.

      Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, and others are creating electric “crossovers” with inflated prices because they have to go 0-60 in four seconds. But the minivan is the OBVIOUS place to go electric. 40 miles a day, every damn day. Plodding through traffic.

      Imagine an ad targeted at the harried soccer mom: At least you don’t have to stop for gas twice a week.

      • Well,


        …except it sounds like it’s much too cool to actually be used as a minivan. Too bad.

        Although there was the time a drop-dead gorgeous woman parked a late-model Maserati sedan in the gravel parking lot of the nursery I used to work at in Los Gatos. She bought five or six five-gallon shrubs and asked me to load them in the back seat. At the sight of the leather upholstery I suggested plastic sheets, to which she responded,

        “Oh don’t worry, this is just the car I drive my sons to school in.”

        So I smeared mud all over the leather back seats of a Maserati.

        I suppose some people will be able to buy the hipster electric VW bus and use it as a minivan.

  3. I think you’re on to something here. Back in 2014, the chairman of Fiat Chrysler requested that consumers not buy Fiat 500e’s because he claimed the company lost $14,000 on each one. He vowed to sell the bare minimum required to stay in the California market.

    What better way than to appeal to the smallest market segment? Email Sergio Marchionne and tell him that a SpiderE would almost certainly sell in lower numbers than the 500e.

    Of course, he has no motivation to try extra-hard to make an extended-range SpiderE, so you better hope for lots of charging stations.

  4. Yo Jer. Years ago you commented that the modern Morgan 3-Wheeler was intriguing, but too expensive for a toy. How about the Vanderhall Edison(superscript)2?


    Still pricey (though less so), but an open-air electric two-seater at less-than-a-supercar price (with a ridiculous 0-60 time and an “estimated” 200-mile range). However, it completely fails on the put-the-top-up-when-you-want-to requirement and has essentially no luggage capacity.

    • Color me intrigued! One curious thing: Among Vanderhall all dealers, there is none than operates in a city that begins with “San”. Go figure.

      In general this vehicle is far more pleasing to the eye than some I’ve seen, but that big front grill makes no sense (except to evoke 1950’s Indy cars). And… hang on… are those side pipes? On a car that produces no exhaust?

      Rather than being proudly electric, the designers of this car are doing everything they can to deny the fact.

      • Wait, wait, I see now. There are electric and ICE versions. The Edison^2 line still has the big front grill but does not have vestigial exhaust pipes.

        • As far as the two-front, one-back trikes you can actually buy, the Morgan is gorgeous but silly overpriced, the Polaris Slingshot is merely expensive (but ugly), and the Vanderhall is in the middle.

          An earlier version of the website showed the evolution of the styling, and all I can say is the production version is by far the best, simply by being inoffensive. I get the impression that the size of the grill is a result of someone thinking it would be a great idea to hide the LED headlights behind the grill, thus requiring the grill to be quite large.

          And while I can imagine a Utah-based-company dealership bursting into infernal flame in it opened in a city with a Catholicism-based name, I have no skin in that game and it looks like there’s a Mountain View dealership.

          • Once I found the dealer locator function, rather than scan a list, I saw that indeed there was a dealer in this area.

            This one is certainly the front-runner in a class of vehicle I’ll likely never buy; right now “work bench” is the strongest contender to occupy that side of the garage when the Miata breathes its last.

            I forgot to comment on the Edison vs. Tesla angle before. Recently Edison’s reputation has taken a real beating since the days when “Edison’s Conquest of Mars” was published. So now we have a car named for a man who was an incredible asshole competing with a car named after someone who may have been downright crazy (or perhaps just an Andy Kauffman kind of crazy). Good times!

  5. Wait – whaaaat?

    A Miata, breathing its last, in /California/??

    How is this possible, in less than Street Prepared trim (where grenading becomes possible, if not periodic)?

    Could it be the road trips took it through the Rust Belt??? There can be no other rational explanation… Otherwise, it’s off to re-/tire/-ment … in Prepared category, or at least the Grassroots 2020 Challenge!

    • The old buggy is still doing all right – certainly rust is not an issue. But getting smogged is becoming less of a slam-dunk. O2 sensor next thing to replace, after ignition coils last year. 160k miles and counting, but since I haven’t put the top up in a long time it will be a pretty major production to latch it into place — therefore it’s strictly a fair-weather car right now. Not an issue because we really only need one car.

  6. There is now a possibility that MG will come out with an electric roadster! MG is now a Chinese company, and at this time makes only SUV’s. But the dude in charge thinks Chinese will buy little electric cars, and he may be right.

    Also, there’s this three-wheel entry for $10k US (though that goes in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category, based on the success (or lack thereof) of similar ventures).

    Then there’s this Canadian company working on a four-wheel vehicle to accompany their not-awful 3-wheeler. The target price is $30K — at first those were Canadian dollars, but the company switched the target currency to US dollars rather than raise the target number. It’s supposed to be ready in 2020, but I’d need to see a bit more than some drawings before I bought that story.

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