Disneyland announces Autopia will be all-electric within the next 30 months (Updated)


Disney’s Autopia ride has been making headlines recently, after a park spokesperson told the LA Times that the park was considering ditching gas engines soon. But activists put the pressure on to ensure that Disney goes all-EV with the ride, and fast.

Late Thursday, those activists got their wish, and Disney announced that it would go all-electric with the ride within the next 30 months.

At first, Disney’s statement sounded a little noncommittal and open – they didn’t state a specific timeline, nor specify that the ride would be all-electric. So activists wanted to ensure that both of these things happened.

And late Thursday, Disney spokesperson Jessica Good told the LA Times that electrification “means fully electric — it does not mean hybrid or any other version of a gasoline combustion engine,” and that the park “will no longer be using the current engines within the next 30 months.”

Autopia is a classic ride in Disneyland’s “Tomorrowland” area, but given the EV world we’re living in, its current stinky gas-powered cars certainly don’t seem too futuristic.

The emissions from these engines cause smog and harm the health of those who breathe them – so putting them directly in front of small children isn’t the best idea. But the ride was sponsored by Chevron from 1998-2012, and that company is pretty dedicated to poisoning small children anyway, so it was apt.

Thankfully, in 2012, Disney attracted a new sponsor, Honda, and in 2016, Honda upgraded the engines for greater efficiency. However, the cars still create plenty of exhaust noise and smell, which is still poisonous to the children riding behind these polluting engines. It’s also poisonous to employees, to the point where Disney pays hazard pay to employees who are assigned to staff the ride.

2016 was also notably after EVs had proven themselves in the automotive realm. So upgrading to an old technology seems a little inappropriate for “Tomorrowland.” But Honda themselves have been behind the ball on the EV transition as well.

Tomorrowland is the section within Disneyland which was meant to show visions of the future. It first opened in 1955, and offers a time capsule of what a 1950s vision of the future might have looked like.

Needless to say, in the seven decades hence, things have changed somewhat. To the point where the original designer of the Autopia cars, Bob Gurr, who is now 92 and was interviewed by the LA Times, said “get rid of those God-awful gasoline fumes.”

It’s certainly ironic that in California, where EVs keep setting sales records and where you can’t even buy gas-powered “small off-road engines” anymore, a Disneyland parkgoer might drive to the park in a clean EV, only to show their children a vision of the past with a poisonous, low-performing gas engine on one of the admittedly more-fun rides in the park. Just imagine how much more fun the ride will be when it goes electric.

And Disney could do a lot more to update Tomorrowland with actual visions of the future, rather than an old-timey time capsule. The original Tomorrowland featured a “Carousel of Progress” show of futuristic efficient home appliances, and the Monorail and PeopleMover which both still exist. Disney could showcase more public transport or other post-car mobility options, ideas for futuristic city planning, induction cooktops and more.

But for now, making Autopia electric seems like a great first step.

To this end, local EV advocates and Plug In America are hosting a rally to celebrate Disney’s decision this Sunday, April 21 at 10am at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Not a bad way to spend Earth Day weekend, perhaps after attending one of the LA-area Drive Electric Earth Month events the day before (and one of the founders of Drive Electric Week, Zan Dubin-Scott, is organizing the Burbank rally). The rally was originally planned to put pressure on Disney to go all-EV, but in light of yesterday’s announcement, it has now turned into a celebration.

This article is updated from a previous version of the article which described the pressure being put on Disney to go all-electric. Not long after that article was posted, Disney clarified that it’s planning to go all-EV.

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