“It’s the big-wheel you always wanted to ride when you were little,” says Local Motors founder Jay Rogers of his company’s Verrado “drift trike,” an electric-powered three-wheeler that has way more oomph than anything toddlers ride around the neighborhood.
Local Motors opened a shop this week in a shipping container parked in Crystal City while it builds a showroom at National Harbor that’s set to open this fall. The Phoenix-based company pitches itself as an auto company—a lofty venture to launch in the 2010s—that sources its designs from hobbyists and other gearheads who contribute to its website. So far, the crowd-sourcing has yielded the Rally Fighter, a souped-up rally car designed to blaze through deserts and other forbidding terrain (it appeared in Transformers: Age of Extinction as the bad guy’s car); a sleek motorcycle (Rogers’s grandfather owned Indian Motorcycles); and, yes, a goofy-looking tricycle outfitted with a 48-volt battery strapped to the body.
The company also produces a 3-D-printed car, in which it produces the chassis, body, and seats as one piece before installing the other parts. While the Rally Fighter goes for $99,000, Rogers says the 3-D-printed car, which is not on display in Arlington, will retail for between $18,000 and $30,000 once it clears federal vehicle regulations, which Local Motors aims to do by 2016.
Rogers boasts that Local Motors improves on the traditional auto-industry model by owning the design, manufacturing, and retail stages, though he resists comparisons to other niche car companies like Tesla. “We’re like Build-a-Bear Workshop meets Formula 1,” he says.
Local Motors’s temporary store also gives Vornado, which owns most of Crystal City’s office space, another tech-ish thing to add to its portfolio while it figures out what to do with nearly 400,000 square feet of vacancies. In the past year, Vornado has leased large spaces to TechShop, a membership-based workshop catering to the “maker movement,” an outpost of DC-based startup incubator 1776, and the shared-office company WeWork, which is building residential facilities for its eventual Arlington tenants, in addition to desks and cubicles.
Test drives of the Rally Figher were, regrettably, unavailable on Thursday. But there was a little test track for the drift trike, which can get up to 25 miles per hour. (While that may seem pathetically slow for a motor vehicle or even some cyclists, remember that the user is seated extremely low to the ground—on a tricycle.) Revving it up is fun, but the thing’s true joy, or terror, comes in drifting around curves. Squeeze the brake and turn, and the Verrado’s rear—and, thus, the rider—whips around. It’s sort of like the cars in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, except it feels much easier to be ejected from the vehicle.
The drift trike retails for $1,199. Helmets, kneepads, and—perhaps most importantly—humility are extra.