The world’s major auto companies have yet to bring an electric vehicle (EV) to market and keep it there for long. Some drivers, however, taunted by stratospheric gasoline prices, have taken matters into their own hands.
They are retrofitting their gas-guzzlers into their own DIY EVs.
A company catering to these gas-averse early adopters is Electric Vehicles of America, a New Hampshire-based company that sells you the parts in a kit and gives instructions to convert a fuel-dependent vehicle—from a pick-up truck to a boat—into an EV.
Unfortunately, the electric-conversion enthusiasts are banging up against the same technological ceiling that the big boys have yet to shatter: limited range. One vehicle mentioned in a recent CNN report, a 1995 Chevy S-10 pickup, runs on 20 six-volt, lead-acid batteries and got only 40 miles between charges. Bob Batson, the founder of Electric Vehicles of America, notes, however, that the average driver only logs 20 miles per day, so such an EV could work for some people.
I've driven many electric cars, and short range plagued them all. The batteries just don’t hold enough power to drive too far. Remember the fabled General Motors EV-1—immortalized in the film Who Killed the Electric Car? It was nice little auto: peppy acceleration with a pretty slick look. But many commuters who drove it in the late-1990s were afraid, for example, to travel too far to go for lunch—lest they wouldn't have enough juice to get them home after the workday ended. In California, where most of them were beta-tested, the state failed to install sufficient numbers of roadside recharging stands, so a low battery level was trouble. As noted in the CNN piece, driving an EV today means you need another vehicle for longer trips—an economic problem for many households.
It's unclear from the article whether these converted cars can be charged from a standard electric socket. If so, I guess an EV driver could run an extension cord to the car when they park it at work. But, that could be pretty impractical—especially if it rained.
Tesla Motors recently sold its first electric Roadster [see YouTube video below], a gorgeous hot-rod that offers tremendous performance and more than 200 miles of range. Of course, it also costs more than $100K and its lithium-ion battery pack weighs in at over 900 pounds. Sorry to say, more progress in battery technology is needed before the car can truly go electric.
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Christopher Pattberg)