This Dune Buggy Is Electric, 3-D Printed and Crowd Sourced

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Nov 09, 2015

If you didn’t recognize it as a beach buggy, the surfboard that comes along for the ride is a dead giveaway. The Local Motors 3D Swim, heading to the market in 2017 for about $50,000, is an update of those old VW Bug-based dune hoppers modernized for our era--it's all electric, 3D printed and recyclable.

The Local Motors 3-D Swim is ready for that Surfin' Safari. (Local Motors photo)The Swim prototype, on display at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, sits on the platform of BMW’s fun-to-drive i3 battery car. On top of that is the 3D-printed body, which is a combination of ABS plastic (80 percent) and carbon fiber (20 percent) from Saudi supplier SABIC. The resulting car, which will have a top in production, should be very light (spokesman Adam Kress can’t be specific on the weight) and also very quick. Range with the i3 drivetrain, a distinct possibility for production, should be more than 100 miles—and 100 mph is also likely.

Local Motors wants to outdo Tesla Motors when it comes to innovation, but its specific target is design and manufacturing. The SEMA car design came out of what Local calls its crowd-sourced “co-creation community.” Anyone can contribute ideas, and some come from skilled stylists. The Swim car design came from Kevin Lo, who won the Project REDACTED contest over 61 other design entries. The original drawings bristled with outside speakers for an instant beach party.

The Swim is expected to sell for $50,000 or thereabouts. (Local Motors photo)The SEMA car (which does feature wireless speakers!) is still very much Lo’s vision, though Kress says it will be continually refined as the countdown to production begins. “By the end of 2016, we hope to have the Swim crash tested and highway certified,” he said.

The plan is to make the Swim a “connected car,” and to that end Local Motors just signed an agreement with IBM that makes it likely that the Internet of Things (and on-demand stuff like weather alerts) will be packaged inside.

Local Motors' Jay Rogers introduces the 3-D Swim at SEMA. (Local Motors photo)The Swim will not be Local’s first production car. That honor goes to a distinct oddity known as the Rally Fighter, a big Baja-style vehicle for off-road competitions. Green it’s not, though it shares the Swim’s crowd-sourcing. According to Kress, Local Motors has sold 100 of the things, even at a $100,000 introductory price. Buyers can visit the Arizona factory and watch their Rally Fighter get built.

This fearsome beast is the $100k crowd-sourced Rally Fighter, ready for Baja fun. (Local Motors photo)The other Local offering is even odder—the three-wheeled Verrado, a battery-powered Big Wheel for adults. It’s also known as a “drift trike.” Trike drifting is becoming a big thing, and this is what the co-creation community demanded—a trike with batteries. The idea, says Local, is to:

rip open a can of that rebellious, edge-of-control feeling as you power into sketchy turns just a little too fast and your rear wheels start to power-slide sideways in a satisfying drift. An involuntary smile crosses your face as you crank the throttle and the powerful front wheel motor pulls you sideways through the curve like a boss.

The Verrado is a battery-powered Big Wheel drift trike for adults. (Local Motors photo)I think I’m more the Swim type, thanks to a surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach one time. Here's video of the Swim being 3-D printed:


Get the Car Talk Newsletter