Still Searching for the Electric Roadster

Before I go too far down this rabbit hole, we should all make note of the fact that it is entirely possible that I will never buy another car, and that the roadster I currently own (a 1999 Miata) almost never leaves the garage. I have the battery hooked up to a trickle charger and I use my bike pump to keep the tires from going too flat.

But still, every once in a while, I go looking for the “electric Miata” — a simple and spirited little car made for top-down fun. I want this vehicle to exist. There was a time known as the 1980’s where no one thought there was a market for a fun little two-seater, and then Mazda introduced the Miata and bang the genre was reborn. I’m looking for the company that does the same thing, but electric.

It’s a challenge, to be sure. Batteries are heavy, and weight is the last thing you want if your goal is a nimble little car. That fact alone is probably why my dream has not already been realized. I get that. But I dream.

“What about the Tesla Roadster?” you ask. I will not go into detail here, but the original Roadster has value only as a collector item and the fabled new roadster is a preposterously expensive supercar that isn’t actually a roadster at all. What about Detroit Electric? Audi? BMW? The list goes on. All preposterous supercars and not a ragtop to be found.

Part of this, again, goes back to the weight. If it’s going to be heavy, is has to be powerful, and it has to stay very low to the pavement if it wants to turn corners at any speed. I get that. But I dream.

MG, the famous British company whose name is synonymous with “fun (as long as it isn’t broken)”, is now owned by Chinese giant SAIC, and the badge adorns SUV’s over there. But apparently some guy in that company remembers what MG used to mean, and MG has been working on an electric vehicle to pay homage to that heritage. Here at last, I thought, would be the electric that captured the true roadster feel.

Dubbed (I kid you not) “Cyberster”, the MG concept absolutely does NOT capture that feel. It is just another electric two-seat supercar in a market with about as many offerings as customers.

Mazda has now said they will “electrify” the Miata by 2030. But they probably mean hybrid, because, well, batteries are heavy. I’ve long wondered if the Wankel Rotary is well-suited for turning a generator; maybe we’ll find out.

Perhaps what I want is not possible with current technology. In fact, go back and remove the “Perhaps” from that statement. But I still want it! And let’s face it; a battery-encumbered Miata would still out-corner the 1974 Alfa Romeo I used to love to drive.

And there’s the thing. I get the weight. But the people choosing what cars to build don’t get the feeling of being out on the road on a chilly night, top down, heater blasting, moon washing the landscape. They don’t get the drives across the desert where sunscreen is a constant activity. They don’t get that the vanilla smell of ponderosas is part of the magic of weaving up a mountain road. They have never looked straight up and seen the sun shine through the feathers of a golden eagle coasting over the baking blacktop.

They do not love the road as deeply as I do. The motion, the air, the adventure. Someone should put me in charge of a car company (actually, they really shouldn’t). Then my company could make the car we all want.

For symmetry with the start of this episode, also note that in the unlikely event that I actually buy another car, it better drive itself so I can take a nap before I get where I’m going.


3 thoughts on “Still Searching for the Electric Roadster

  1. Meta-thought: There was a time when something on the Web was as rich with keywords as this episode would be a shining beacon on Google. I was once the top hit for “eggs over-easy” and for “New York sucks”. Trust me, searching on the phrase “Electric roadster” produces pretty much shit.

    But it’s corporate shit. Google for a decade or more has been tossing out content from the little guys. I will tell you right now that NO ONE has EVER provided a better tutorial for eggs over-easy. Seriously. I include the timing of the toast, and the subjective call on the crunchy bits at the edges. Now you search, and all you get is food channel.

    Though, dang, looking at that now, the production values are low. But the information is there!

  2. The vehicle you’re describing exists, as an electric conversion of a vintage roadster. We’ve personally talked about one company, though their chassis vocabulary may not appeal to you, but here’s another concept:

    The thing is, given the energy density of lithium batteries a sporty little car doesn’t have to be extremely heavy as long as you don’t want to drive much more than 100 miles… and as long as you don’t have to weigh it down with modern conveniences and safety standards. Which points to converting a vintage roadster.

    • yeah, and I’ve looked at some of those, on those idle next car? kind of afternoons. Maybe the best answer is just to electrify the Miata I already own.

      But… road trips! I need range! Which begs a much larger infrastructure question.

      Or does it!? In fact, I think I’ll put off my long-awaited shoe episode to reveal a fun email exchange I’ve had with them.

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