Convert your own car, use it for 80% of your transport needs
The Contra Costa Times reports on the release of a documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and on what ‘plug-in’ enthusiasts are saying – that the technology is here, ready for mass production and can easily dovetail into an average household.
Scott and Anna Cornell of Pleasant Hill, California, own four electric cars and a gas-powered Volkswagen van. They have converted two of the electrics, a 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit and a 1968 Karmann Ghia, themselves.
Building an electric car
Although Scott is an electrical engineer and Internet technology manager, he says even people without vast technical knowledge can build an electric car out of an old gas-powered vehicle
by purchasing a conversion kit.
Anna Cornell took two years to convert the Rabbit herself, while their daughter was a baby.
“I don’t have an electric engineering background,” she says, “Making pillows, doing cross-stitch, that I know how to do.”
Scott Cornell converted the Karmann Ghia in just a few weeks. The Cornells’ converted cars each cost about $US8,000 to build.
Maintenance & range
The couple spends about as much to maintain and power the cars as they would the smallest petrol-powered vehicle. They regularly change the water in the lead-acid batteries. They rotate the tires and change the brake pads. And that’s about it.
They can drive about 50 miles on a full charge and easily keep up with freeway traffic of up to 80 miles per hour. Soon, Scott says, he’ll add solar panels to their home so they won’t even have to buy electricity.
The film that is drawing new attention to electric cars is a whodunit that opens with a mock funeral. The murder victim is GM’s EV1, a fully electric, plug-in car leased to customers in the late 1990s but never sold.
GM executives eventually killed the electric car program, recalled the vehicles and sent them to the crusher for disposal.
In the film, it is found that GM, the oil industry, the Federal and California Governments and consumers all contributed to the EV1’s murder. The “defendants” are motivated in turn by greed, incompetence, ignorance and complacency.
It’s a metaphor for why it’s so hard to get America out of the 20th century.
The message seems to be getting out
A new campaign will be announced to get local governments and businesses to promise to buy plug-in hybrid vehicles if auto manufacturers ramp up the production of the cars. Unlike pure electric vehicles, these hybrids run primarily on electricity and then switch to gas or diesel when the power runs out.
Showing there are enthusiastic buyers is a way to encourage the auto industry to start mass producing plug-in hybrids, says Sam Haswell, spokesman for the Rainforest Action Network, one of the organisers.
Will Beckett, the group’s vice chairman, says even though his car can run only about 40 miles on a charge, it takes care of most of his driving needs.
Tips on driving with electricity
“You don’t do long trips. The purpose of a pure electric vehicle is for 80 percent of what you do, which is commute and short trips,” Beckett says “Very few electric-car drivers run out of fuel, and it’s really easy to find a plug.”
“The one time I did run out, we went to a restaurant across the street and plugged it into a grocery store, then went home.”
Still, the No. 1 reason people won’t switch to electric cars is because they can’t drive 300 miles on a charge. The other issue is they can’t recharge in five minutes. The range problem is solved by the plug-in hybrid car.
As for the re-charging time, consumers initially weren’t excited about the prospect of re-charging their mobile phones, either, but they got used to it.
If, as they say, the technology for electric cars is ready for mass production – would you consider one?