Better than a hybrid, get a recycled all-electric car

I was at the Issaquah Train Show today with my son and out in front of the event was an all-electric vehicle. I was standing around looking at electric train sets and had the pleasure of talking with volunteer Jeff Finn who was helping keep the trains moving around the track. It turns out that Jeff is the one that owns the all-electric car. I had a very enlightening conversation with him as I got to ask a lot of questions about ownership of such a vehicle.

Jeff started building his car in December of 2007 and completed it in March 2008. The vehicle was a 2000 Chevrolet Metro. He picked up the vehicle for $250 and told me that it barely ran when he bought it. He said if you’re looking to build an all-electric it’s best to find one where the engine has been blown as it’s going to be ripped out anyway. He said he invested about $8,000 in parts and another $5,000 in labor for a total project cost of $13,000.

The vehicle can go 50 miles on a full charge. The top speed is approximately 70 mph which is much faster than your neighborhood electric car. He said he wanted a vehicle that he could drive on the freeway. The vehicle is powered on 21 golf cart batteries (21deep cycle 6V lead acid batteries in series for 126V total). The batteries cost about $80 a piece.

I told him I was installing an electric car charging station at thinkspace and wanted to know how fast his electric car charged. He told me that it takes 4 hours @ 220V or 8 hours @ 110V. Since people are generally working all day, it would be simple to just put in a 110V outlet for the charging station. However, when running your own business inside thinkspace you might want to work smarter and get your work done in four hours so you can go spend more time with family and friends. The quick charger reminds me of my childhood when I had RC cars and couldn’t wait even 15 minutes to get a full charge so I could get playing again. Same thing here, only I’m no longer 13 years old.

With fuel prices where they are today and only climbing higher I had to ask how much he spends on charging his electric car. He said it costs about $30 in electricity per month. So for roughly a $1 per day you can drive your car as you normally would. This of course, in a zero emission vehicle! Pretty much makes a hybrid look expensive and a traditional vehicle look ridiculously expensive to drive. I had a different conversation a week ago with my friend Mike who wants to build a house where he can get an electric car that is charged from Photovoltaic solar panels on his roof. Now, that is the ultimate in energy efficiency!

I have a deposit down for a Smart ForTwo car but on Monday I’m going to withdraw my deposit. The EPA rates the fuel economy at 36 mpg. I would have expected more from a small vehicle like that. I’m going to take a serious look at an all-electric car, perhaps, my friend Dane can help me build one!

For more information about Jeff’s all-electric car you can check out his Volt Runner website. He’s pimped his ride, so hopefully soon, he’ll post some photos of that on his website. He’s also a member of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association (SEVA).

For those of you that are driving an all-electric car, I’d like to hear about what kind of maintenance is required for these kinds of vehicles.

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