Here at Electrek, I have the dubious honor of testing the more fringe offerings on the electric vehicle spectrum. Instead of the newest Tesla or Rivian, you’ll often find me on the newest electric motorcycle, boat, or non-road-worthy electric contraption.
This year was no different, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here are the top five weird, wild, or just plain lovable electric vehicles I tested in 2023.
A $1,000 electric boat ordered direct-from-China
Believe it or not, this is the real deal. I even have the $1,080 receipt to prove it. I bought the world’s cheapest five-seater fiberglass electric boat and brought it all the way over from China.
The tale was long and not for the faint of heart, and ultimately cost me significantly more than the original $1k purchase price when I had to pay for freight, customs, taxes, drayage, etc., but it was well worth it in the end.
On delivery, I finally received a massive wooden crate and got to work unboxing my new pleasure craft.
It took a serious amount of work just to get the thing out of the crate, and even then I had some assembly on my hands followed by wiring in my own batteries. But it ultimately worked out quite well, and a few days later I was easing that boat into the local pond like an old man into a warm bath.
The underpowered motor could barely maintain 3 knots, partially due to the half-submerged propellor trying to push nearly as much air as water, but the boat was still a delight to putter around on. The fiberglass isn’t beautiful, but is still surprisingly good for $1,000.
And of course, the boat makes a perfect platform for modification, of which I already have big plans. I have a new motor that should significantly increase the power and efficiency of the boat, as well as some solar plans in the works as well. Hopefully, 2024 brings that project to fruition, and we’ll finally be able to see what this boat is capable of with a little more power in her stern. Stay tuned for that update!
Testing a Citroen Ami
The Citroen Ami is far from new or spectacular, at least if you live in Europe. But seeing as I don’t, the chance to rent one on vacation meant that I could finally experience all that a street-legal European tiny car has to offer.
My wife and I spent a week exploring the Greek island of Santorini purely by Ami, using that little micro-car for all of our daily travel and sightseeing.
Instead of renting a loud and obnoxious ATV like most of the tourists seemed to do, we were relaxing in a similarly fast and powerful (i.e. not either of those things) little four-wheeled vehicle.
Sure, it had some oddities. The symmetrical design took some getting used to, as did the lack of ABS and the spartan interior. And finding charging outlets on a Greek island isn’t as easy as it sounds (and it doesn’t sound easy, either). But for a simple and easy-going ride, it was a great way to get around and indeed replaced the need for a “real” car for us.
I don’t think it’d work great for a family of five. But fortunately, we’re living it up on Team No Kids and have enjoyed using two-seaters and one-saddles for most of our vacation shenanigans. If you’re one of a maximum of two people and need to get around at purely city speeds, a microcar like a Citroen Ami has a lot of pull!
Testing out an electric wheel loader
When it comes to backyard construction equipment – stuff smaller than a massive backhoe or bulldozer – there just aren’t many options. If you want to go electric, there are even fewer options.
And yet I somehow still managed to find one of the best, and only, options out there for electric heavy machinery designed for the average Joe.
Or perhaps more accurately, I found two of the best options: the Nesher L880 and L1400 electric wheel loaders.
These 2,500 lb and 4,500 lb machines are surprisingly effective for all sorts of smaller-scale jobs. I don’t think they’d fit the needs of a major contractor doing 8 hours of heavy-duty construction work every day. But I did do a full discharge test of moderate intensity work (moving pallets and digging in dirt/mulch/sand) and got an approximately 6-hour run time on the L1400.
For everyone from hobby farm operators to private land owners, these feel like a good option for right-sized machinery that come with all the advantages of electric vehicles. The operating costs are almost zero (charging costs around $1.50 to $2.00 depending on local rates), maintenance is nearly zero, and they are much quieter to operate. You’re also not breathing in diesel fumes for hours at a time.
I can definitely see how electric is the future of the construction industry, even it is more than likely going to start on the smaller end of the spectrum. I don’t think we’ll see an electric D9 bulldozer for a few more years, but you can already get a great electric mini-loader or tractor today.
Riding around in a Polaris RANGER XP Kinetic UTV
The off-road industry may not be going electric as quickly as the automotive industry, but there are already some great options. Chief among them is the Polaris RANGER XP Kinetic, an electric side-by-side that combines decades of Polaris engineering with the electric prowess of Zero Motorcycle’s drivetrains.
Polaris incorporated those motorcycle drivetrains into their top-of-the-line UTVs, adding several key changes along the way to make them even more robust.
The result is a seriously fun and hard-working platform that can tend to the ranch all week and then go muddin’ for fun on the weekend. Having tested the vehicles on multiple occasions, most recently when visiting the Huntsville, Alabama factory where they’re made, I can tell you firsthand how well they work.
With a powerful drivetrain and up to two electric motorcycle batteries, long-range and high power combine for the best of what utility vehicles are designed to do: get the job done.
To see what it was like to test these vehicles, check out my riding experience video below!
The Lectric XP Trike turns an electric bike into an electric vehicle
Electric bicycles will always be my first true love, but this is the year that I fell head-over-heels in love with electric tricycles, too.
There are great offerings in the industry, including highly engineered models like the RadTrike and ultra-budget offerings like the Viribus, but the Lectric XP Trike takes the cake as the best bang-for-your-buck option with a great design and excellent performance for a killer price.
I was able to put the trike through its paces, starting from the first unboxing to full use cases. Even right from the start, the XP Trike is easy to use by arriving fully assembled. From there, the comfortable design offers great performance with an industry-leading battery capacity and a powerful mid-drive motor setup.
It’s not the most elegant mid-drive, opting for a hub motor mounted centrally in the frame, but it creates a great setup with a rear differential and even comes with handy features like hydraulic disc brakes complete with a parking brake.
Not everyone is ready to switch from two-wheels to three, but I did enjoy the extra stability and the fun ride. Sure, e-trikes are more prevalent among older riders, but even as a thirty-something, I still love riding the hell out of that thing!