ElectroClassic EV
Classic Cars Reborn into the Electric Future

Jun
17

trunk_packedA short road trip was long overdue, and our 10th wedding anniversary provided the perfect opportunity to get out of town. I include the shot above mainly as a way of gloating over the ample trunk room, despite the space occupied by the batteries. We buttoned her up and pointed ourselves toward Ventura, which is about 67 miles up the coast – almost at the limit of my range. So as a precaution, our first stop was Cross Creek in Malibu, where we could pause for a nice dinner and soak up a few extra electrons that would squeak us into Ventura.

. malibu_charge1 We scored a charging station at the Malibu Civic Center, and then strolled over to Marmalade Cafe for a leisurely dinner. Ninety minutes later, we returned, unplugged the car, and buckled-in for the drive north on Pacific Coast Highway. The Orion BMS reported we had 93.5% charge – nearly full, so we left Cross Creek in positive spirits. But only a few miles later my copilot reported the pack was now at at 40%, slightly less than before dinner. I don’t know what confused the normally trustworthy Orion, but I suspected a faulty charging station. Rather than push on and risk getting stranded, I decided to go back to Cross Creek to investigate. So I pulled a U-turn.

. flatbed_malibuThat U-turn unfortunately put my right front tire in direct contact with an unexpected median, producing a gash that abruptly released all the air from our plans. Without a spare, I had to cash in on my AAA Plus membership for a flatbed ride back to the house. It was an unplanned turn of events that required some serious regrouping.

. recargo_checkin2Of course, it was a huge bummer that both our anniversary plans and a new tire were blown, but I was also unsettled about the cause of the dropped charge – I didn’t know whether it was the charging station, or the Porsche. So I opened the PlugShare app on my iPhone to check the charger status for Cross Creek, and to view user reports that might confirm the unit was broken. Although I didn’t see anything immediately negative, I still posted my own report, which you can read in the screenshot above. Hopefully this will elicit confirmation from other EV owners, and warrant an inspection, repair or replacement of that charging station.

. victorian_rose On the bright side, Plan B went extremely well. Early the next morning, my lovely wife drove us in her car to Ojai for breakfast and some pummeling and pampering at the Day Spa of Ojai. Later, we cruised the scenic route around Lake Casitas, dropped onto the 101, and returned to our favorite B&B in Ventura, the Victorian Rose. The building is an historic landmark, and the interior feels like an old-timey funhouse full of relics and legacy. If you take a few minutes to look at the rooms on their website, you might even consider a weekend in Ventura for yourself. Our anniversary dinner at Cafe Nouveau also gets very high marks, and merits a double recommendation.

. jacked_wheeloff Back home on Sunday afternoon, I immediately put the Porsche in the air, removed the thrashed tire, and thoroughly inspected the underside. Happily, there was no damage other than a little undercoating scraped off the edge of the fiberglass airdam. Some minor sanding and a shot of 3M put it right again. The blown tire was still covered under the Pep Boys optional road hazard warranty, so they replaced it for the cost of labor. For the record, it’s a Hankook Optimo H426 185/65R15 88H, which is a low rolling friction tire designed to boost fuel economy. Also for the record, the battery pack charged up without incident, as it has literally hundreds of times before. This supports the suspicion that there’s something squirrely with the one charging station in Malibu.

. rear_alignment_shimsThere was no telling how the encounter with the median had affected the wheels, so I scheduled a proper 4 wheel alignment at the first opportunity. Adjusting the front end is pretty straightforward, but the back wheels are aligned by adding or removing shims from under the rear trailing arm mounting bolts. These are the shims, pictured above. I bought two sets of 2mm, 3mm and 4mm reproduction shims from MadDogs MotorSports on eBay, which they laser cut from mild steel because the original Porsche parts are no longer available.

. 4whl_alignmentThese days, a precision 4-wheel alignment is done with lasers, reflectors, cameras, and a computer. I took the Porsche to Bagge and Son in Culver City, who are very familiar with the 914, and have aligned hundreds of them through the years. Thankfully, they confirmed that my encounter with the median did no harm to the front end. The whole visit took about an hour, and left me with a car that drives noticeably smoother. The steering is glassy, and any faint jitteryness in the wheel at freeway speed is gone. I didn’t think the Fahrvergnügen could get any better!

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alignment_printout

Here’s the printout of my finished wheel alignment geometry. The sheet reflects camber, toe, and caster adjustments for the two front wheels, and only camber and toe for the rear wheels. The mechanics were confident that normal body weight in the car would bring the red figures shown above into true. I have no reason to disbelieve them – Any shop that does suspension and alignment on the presidential limo is probably trustworthy.

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Mar
30

A 914 EV Cameo on Fox’s Cosmos

Following one particular Saturday morning run on the beach and breakfast with my pal Fordy, I returned to find this handwritten note under the wiper blade of my 914EV:

windshield_wiper_note2I called the number on the business card, and connected with Seth Reed, who introduced himself as a film and television Production Designer. He explained that the “science documentary” mentioned in the note was the National Geographic/Fox remake of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, hosted by the great science communicator, PBS Nova host, and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

.CarlSaganPorsche_914Carl Sagan is famous among teeners for driving a Porsche 914, and Seth wanted to feature mine in the show. It sounded like fun, so I signed up. Click on the picture above to see the blog of Sagan’s son, Nick, whose voice appears on the Voyager spacecraft’s golden record, saying  “Hello from the children of planet Earth.”

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p914_bus_presnowWe arrived at the Paramount backlot on the afternoon of the shoot, and positioned the car in advance for filming later that night. The scene is a recreation of a bus station near Sagan’s home in Ithaca, New York. The 914 would be sharing the screen with a classic old passenger bus that was also hired for the shoot.

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camera_rigThe DP directed me to inch the car back and forth as he set up his angles for the shot. The above camera is a fully digital Arriflex Alexa, if I recall correctly. Just click on the above picture to appreciate the sheer complexity of this rig. Inside that black box is where the magic is made.

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p914_snow_applyWe were reenacting a cold winter evening in upstate New York, so after protecting all the car’s open grills and vents with sheet plastic, the prop department began applying “snow.” It was a very flaky and convincing superabsorbant polymer that is incidentally also used in disposable diapers.

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snow_hood_phobosAs night fell and lights were positioned, the car and entire set were blanketed in polymer flake. The propmaster artfully created the illusion of engine heat melting some of the snow on the front hood, although the original 914 engine was in the back. I was tempted to bring this to his attention, but the lack of a gas engine altogether forced me to bite my tongue and chuckle quietly to my comrades. Notice the prop vintage NY license plate for which Carl Sagan was famous. It reads PHOBOS, which is a moon of Mars.

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digital_tent_1screenWe were permitted to hang in the digital tent and watch set ups on the eye-popping ultra high-def displays. Here we see the actors for the young Sagan and Tyson being lit for the shot, with the 914 in the near foreground. As a high school student, Tyson had applied and been accepted into Cornell, and Sagan personally invited him to visit his lab in support of Tyson’s decision to enroll. The scene is a reconstruction of the parting moment between the two after Sagan had driven Tyson to the Ithaca bus station on that snowy night.

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degrasse_tyson_explainsOnce the camera and lights were set, they brought in the big guns. Here we see the actual Neil deGrasse Tyson regaling Cosmos viewers with his account of that fateful meeting, which fueled his career in science, and made him the obvious heir to the Cosmos reboot. I had the privilege to hang with him between shots, and he perfectly lived up to his reputation as curious, interested, personable, and approachable. Also on set, I had the great honor of meeting Ann Druyan, the wife of Carl Sagan, who cowrote the original Cosmos, and who served as executive producer of this remake. She was warm, gracious, and very complimentary of the Porsche EV.

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sagan_tyson_meet_panoHere is the end product – A dreamlike memory of an epic moment on a snowy evening in upstate New York, where the torch of cosmic wonderment was passed to a new generation. It was such an honor to participate in this legacy.

The episode, called A Sky Full of Ghosts, was broadcast on Fox and National Geographic on March 30 and 31, respectively.

Mar
19

curtis_pb6_bad_potboxRecently, I began experiencing hiccups in the main drive power stream. My console display indicated the motor current was randomly spiking up and down, even when I tried to hold a steady cruising speed. The motor also started fluttering during slow acceleration in low gear. After perusing the EV forums, I decided my throttle had gone bad. Shown above is the original Curtis PB6 potbox throttle, mounted in the motor bay and controlled by an accelerator cable. The name  “potbox” comes from an internal potentiometer that creates a variable resistance depending on the position of the throttle lever, which is used to control the speed of the motor. Unfortunately, a potentiometer is a mechanical device, with a contact brush that slides along the windings of a coil, eventually causing wear and/or dirt to introduce dropouts and noise into the line.

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hall_effect_throttle_newpartI originally planned to purchase a Hall effect throttle, which has no contacts and uses magnetic fields to create a variable voltage, somewhat like a transistor. So I browsed the usual online EV parts stores, and landed on the above Evnetics unit sold by EV West as a Hall effect throttle, made from milled aluminum and looking fairly bulletproof. So I bought it. It runs about double the cost of the original PB6, but it’s well worth it to me. To be fair, Curtis offers their own Hall Effect throttle, but you tell me which one looks cooler.

** NOTE – A later reply to this blog post alerted me that the product description on the Evnetics website describes this unit as a TPS (throttle position sensor), and never mentions Hall effect. Also, a post on DIY Electric Car Forums by Evnetic’s Chief Electron Herder clearly states this TPS unit is a potentiometer. However, the output is the same as an Hall effect throttle, so it should be connected the same as one.

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hall_effect_throttle_to_bracketI removed the throttle bracket from the motor bay and unmounted the PB6 potbox, seen at lower left of the frame. The new holes I drilled to mount the Evnetics throttle to the bracket allowed the accelerator cable to line up perfectly.

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firewall_upshotBecause the Evnetics TPS throttle produces a variable voltage of 0-5 volts (same as an Hall effect device, rather than the potbox’s variable resistance of 0-5K ohms), the connections to the controller needed to be reworked to match the HPEVS schematic. Since I had neatly bundled and dressed out all of the controller wiring during the original install, there was no way to work on it except from underneath the car. The above shot is my view looking up at the controller harness, which occupied my full attention for the next few hours.

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hall_effect_throttle_installHere is the blingy new throttle installed in its permanent home. After tinkering with the cable attachment, I confirmed that clamping closer to the pivot gave the throttle arm greater travel and offered a bit more tension. The pedal action was immediately firmer, quieter and cleaner than the potbox.

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spyglass_throttle_cuThe finishing touch was calibrating the new throttle to the controller. The car could actually drive without calibration, but wouldn’t rest or accelerate properly without knowing the new throttle min and max values. One cool feature of the software update performed at HPEVS (see Brain Boot), allows the end user to program the Curtis controller using the Spyglass display and menu button (the little red dot at the top of frame). I nixed my Spyglass from the center console when I installed the Orion BMS and Galaxy II tablet, but the connector pigtail still dangles under the dash for such occasions. Holding the menu button during ignition toggles the controller into program mode, and then allows stepping through various parameters, including Throttle, Brake, Fine Tune, Idle Control, Display, and Orion BMS implementation. For now, the Throttle menu seen above provides a way to assign throttle type, min/max pedal positions, acceleration rate, and proportional throttle mapping. Once the parameters were dialed-in, the flutter and spastic throttle disappeared, and driving became super fun again!

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Feb
24

hpev_masthead1I recently drove the 914 EV to Ontario, CA, so High Performance Electric Vehicle Systems could update my Curtis software and adjust some of my controller parameters. HPEVS builds the AC-50 electric motor system that I installed in my Porsche, and has all the equipment to keep it running at its peak. Their facility is 45 miles door-to-door from my home, which puts the 90 mile round trip about 20 miles beyond my fully-charged pack range. This was hardly an obstacle, because they gladly offered to set me up with 220VAC charging power for the duration of my visit.

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brian_curtis_updateBrian Seymour, owner of HPEVS, uses his laptop to talk to my controller directly. He does this by plugging into the 8-pin connector that is normally used for the controller dash display gauge. But since I installed the Orion BMS and Galaxy 7″ tablet display, the unused pigtail for the gauge has just been hanging loose inside my center console. We simply fished it out, jacked-in, and launched the controller software update.

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curtis_software_1Here is a shot of the Curtis Instruments software updater, running on Brian’s laptop. The update to version 5.13 took about 20 minutes. One huge advantage of the new software is the ability to edit controller parameters using the original LCD display gauge as an interface. In the past, the only way to do this was using a laptop. The update also allows CAN bus communication with the Orion BMS, idle settings, regen brake lights, graduated regen, limp mode settings, tachometer frequency, and a slew of features that are listed in the software manual.

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curtis_7601_blinky_lmsVisible next to the nearest red power cable (marked with a W), are blinking LEDs that signify new software is being loaded into the Curtis controller. With the deck lid open, I received several compliments on the construction of the racks, and the arrangement of all the batteries and various components. It was a high honor coming from those that created my EV’s pumping heart!

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curtis_software_2As mentioned earlier, the controller parameters can be edited to modify key behaviors of the EV’s performance. Here, Brian is using his laptop to change various settings, which includes boosting the acceleration from 1 second to 1/10th of a second. This reduces the amount of time reserved to build up the electromagnetic fields in the motor coils when current starts to flow. We also boosted the regenerative braking from 15% to 35%, and then re-calibrated my throttle, which was defaulted to 65% for some reason. A test drive showed dramatic improvement in responsiveness off the line, much more power during acceleration, more oomph at higher speeds, greater stiffness during motor braking, and more current sent back to the pack during regen. My EV began to really express its Porsche attitude, and I was thrilled. Once we were happy with the settings and performance of the 914 EV, I pulled back into the shop and plugged in again to finish charging.

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hpevs_911_evThis gave me some time to ogle the 1983 Porsche 911 conversion that HPEVS completed and had been driving for a few years. I noticed that their scheme of mounting the controller on a pedestal over the AC motor was exactly the same design solution I had employed, with battery racks on either side, and the remaining pack up front, where the gas tank formerly resided. More pictures of the 911 build are viewable on their website, as well as their Corvette, Scion and Jetta conversions.

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hpevs_jetta_evSpeaking of the Jetta, Brian offered to let me take it out, and it proved to be a sweet ride. It was very comfortable, quiet, handled well, and had decent acceleration despite the battery pack nearing the end of its life. They had programmed the controller to idle the electric motor at rest, so the belt-driven power steering pump and air conditioning condenser would remain functional when the car was stopped.

When all was said and done, it was a great hang. I got a crash course in the advanced features of the new software, drove the electric Jetta, fielded kudos on my own conversion, and talked shop with the whole HPEVS crew. What’s more, the 914 EV had docked with the mothership, had its brain upgraded, and left feeling like a completely rebooted vehicle. I also made it home with range to spare!

Oct
26

P914_driveway_shotA classic car melds beautiful form with smart function, but also folds the driver’s experience into the total gestalt of the design. In other words, visual appeal means less if the driving experience isn’t equally classic. Top auto designers strive to make the feel of a car magical, like alchemists transmuting glass, rubber and steel into gold. With the perfect combination of elements, they produce a transcendent experience greater than the sum of its parts, and a classic is born.

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gt6_kghia_compAfter owning several vintage Beetles, a ’68 Karmann Ghia, a ’67 Triumph GT6, and now a Porsche 914, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the character and classic vibe of these vehicles. From the feel of the steering wheel, seats and floor pedals, to the look of the dash, and the smell of the upholstery, these cars formed themselves to my psyche and became part of me, like a favorite leather jacket. It’s hard to ignore the role gasoline engines play in this tableau. Certain engines are a wonder of design and are rightly regarded as objects of art. The vibration and note of the engine as it propels you down the highway is a significant part of the driving experience. Many enthusiasts regard it as the defining feature.

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olds_rocket_engineI am attracted to classics because of their design and feel, not particularly because I’m in love with gas engines. Internal combustion engines are complex affairs, with literally hundreds of moving parts, and plenty of opportunities to fail. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say there are many others like myself who see the gasoline engine as a necessary evil – a toxic bundle of noise, odor, heat, grease, and temperament that is in dire need of an update. The electric motor is quiet, clean, simple, and maintenance free, with just one moving part – the spinning armature. The opportunity to eliminate the grease and radically simplify the means of propulsion draws me back to the classic auto once again, only this time reborn as an EV.

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motor_installed_MCUWouldn’t you like to own a classic with an updated, high tech and clean method of propulsion? But which of your favorite classic cars would you choose to electrify? The remainder of this post is my personal answer to that question. I didn’t include many American models, because it’s classic imports that really make me swoon. If you’ve met my wife, you understand my preference for small, stylish, smart and sporty.

As you peruse these vehicles, re-imagine them as cool, quiet, powerful and dependable electric beauties. Rather than spending the rest of their lives as showpiece relics from the petroleum dark ages, they can be given a new lease on life with an updated power plant and drive train, and shamelessly driven for the next 100 years. One day, when electric storage and propulsion is further advanced, today’s first round of manufactured electric cars will themselves become classics.

(** Note: All of the below  images have been lovingly borrowed and sources have been properly cited as a link to each picture.)

triumph_gt6_1966_1_b1967 Triumph GT6 – I bought this model and year Triumph in Santa Ana in 1980 when I left the Marines. I drove it cross-country to Pennsylvania, and then back to Los Angeles 6 years later. It easily took the Grapevine at 80 mph in overdrive without breaking a sweat. My heart is throbbing just looking at it now. So shiny.

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Austin_Healey_3000_BJ_8_1967_6_Zyl1967 Austin Healy 3000 BJ-8 – I’ve always loved the shape of the front end and grill of this car. If you feel the same way, check out this Tears for Fears video. Another look at this car in action is in Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I’m guessing there’s lots of room for batteries under that hood.

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BMW3.0CS_Coupe_red21972 BMW 3.0 CS Coupe – This body styling is really the taproot of all BMW design that followed – the boiled-down essence that only gets more vital with age. I originally considered the 2002 as my favorite vintage Beemer body style, but this trumps it. All it really needs now is an electric motor.

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opel_gt1970 Opel GT – Not an obvious choice, but this is a cool body style, like a tiny little Corvette. Definitely an example of design that deserves to be celebrated and enjoyed. The EV Album has more than one example of an Opel GT that has been successfully converted to electric.

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volvo_p18001965 Volvo P1800 – Beautiful lines define this classic two-door sport coupe, which Roger Moore drove as Simon Templar in The Saint. How can you argue with good taste? This would be an awesome electric vehicle.

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datsun_1967_2000_front1967 Datsun 2000 – During my cross-country journey in the Triumph GT6, a fellow U.S. veteran pulled his ride into the spot next to mine at a small motel. It was a Datsun 2000, in about the same condition as my Triumph. After chatting for a short while, we actually considered doing a straight title swap. I always wonder how different my life would be if we had followed through. This is a sweet ride. Imagine how much sweeter it would be as an electric.

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1958 MGA right1958 MG A – Stunning. This is not generally seen as a top-shelf roadster, but there is something captivating about the slope of the front grill and hood, as well as the classic sexy curves of those rear fenders. It has only gotten better with age. Just imagine slipping silently along Mulholland on a bright Saturday morning, sun in your face, wind in your hair, and without the hydrocarbons.

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1974 Alfa Romeo GTV. - 11974 Alpha Romeo GTV – I don’t know much about this beefy little coupe, except that it probably looks fabulous tearing up the Italian Riviera. I’ve always liked the looks of this model, and I think it would be an absolute blast to drive. Especially as a juiced-up EV.

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Corvair_19641964 Chevrolet Corvair - This was the only air-cooled rear-engine car produced in the US. My best friend’s father had one when I was in elementary school. Parked in the carport, we used to practice shifting with the clutch and gas pedals. I remember on the road, it felt just like a big rollerskate. Ralph Nader became a household name taking shots at the safety record of the Corvair in his book Unsafe at Any Speed, although it was subsequently exonerated by Texas A&M as no less safe than similar model cars of the time. This is the perfect color for this car, and the perfect car for a conversion.

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66_corvair_coupe_blue_11966 Corvair Monza Corsa – Here is the later model that also deserves a second chance. Sportier and beefier than the earlier Corvair, this would have ample room in both the rear engine bay and front trunk for plenty of batteries. It has a nice, muscly look to it.

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1968-Triumph-TR250-Green1968 Triumph TR250 – This was also known in the UK and Europe as the TR5. It’s basically a TR4 with a racing stripe and a bump in the hood to accommodate the bigger straight 6-cylinder engine. I almost bought a TR4 as I was ending my tour in the Marines, but the dude sold it to somebody else, so I bought his GT6 instead. This is nearly the same car that Penny’s dad Ralph was going to convert, inspiring me to turn my Porsche 914 into an EV.

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triumph_TR6_1972_flip1972 Triumph TR6 – The successor to the TR5, I lusted after this car while in junior high. It had a straight six engine and could do 0-60 in a bit over 8 seconds, with a top speed of 120 mph. As you can see, it has a very clean and purposeful body style, deserving every bit of lust it provoked. There are few other cars that carry this color so well, in my opinion. They are rare on the road these days, and it would be a pleasure to give one a new life as an EV.

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Citroën-DS1969 Citroën DS – This unique French luxury sedan already looks like an electric car. Well-known for its innovative hydraulic suspension and transmission, 1.5 million of these were sold in a 20 year production run starting in 1955. It was also sold in the U.S., but never took off due to differing expectations in luxury cars. These are rarely seen anymore, except at auto shows.

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Merc230SL_Silver1967 Mercedes 230SL – Another German car company with a reputation for quality engineering and design. This is a good candidate because it has lots of room for batteries under the hood, originally packing a straight-six engine. It’s also relatively light for the first large roadster with a safety body, weighing in at approximately 2800 lbs. Understated and classy. It would be even more understated as an EV.

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1958 Jaguar XK1501958 Jaguar XK150 – Mad gorgeous. It would be difficult tearing the guts from a car that is so beautifully restored, unless the engine has already given up the ghost. A quick search on EV Album turns up zero results for a Jaguar EV conversion, but a Google search returns a YouTube posting of a beautiful 1937 Jaguar conversion. Not sure I’d want to commit such sacrilege, but for a moment, imagine it as a quiet, clean, powerful, high-tech electric. Awesome, right?

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1958_studebaker_golden_hawk1958 Studebaker Golden HawkMy uncle drove one of these up and down the east coast as a professional liquidator of department stores. When he visited, the Hawk would sit in the driveway, locked and idling. He would not turn the engine off because the battery was dead, and it would not start again without a jump. Every several hours, day or night, he would drive to a gas station to fill the tank. Gas was cheap back then. What a sweet ride if the battery was lithium.

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volvo_120_series_amazon 1967 Volvo 123 GT Amazon – The 120 series was well known as a robust and reliable family car, and was a serious competitor in races and rallies. I once saw a Volvo like this at the San Francisco Art Institute covered in spatter Zolatone from head-to-toe. I thought that was pretty cool. Electric… think about it.

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karmann_ghia_671967 VW Karmann Ghia – After flying home to Pennsylvania from Camp Butler in Japan, I bought a Karmann Ghia to drive cross-country to my last duty station – El Toro MCAS in Orange County, CA. I remember how she took 2 feet of fresh powder early one morning on the interstate in Amarillo like a motor boat, and never once lost footing. I listened to Jack DeJohnette and Patti Smith the whole way across, because those were the only two cassette tapes I had. It was the first time I had driven across the continent, and it was a great trip. It was a fun little car, but I wouldn’t own another unless it was electric.

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Porsche 356 1948-1965 (1961-1963 356B Coupe 60) (01) [AA1]1963 Porsche 356B Coupe –  Dr. Ferdinand Porsche originally started creating sports cars before being tapped by the German government to build a little company called Volkswagen. Once VW was self-sustaining, his efforts returned to his first love, finally resulting in the classic design you see here. Many iterations of this basic shape can be traced through the evolution of the Porsche line through the years. An electric motor would make it no less classic.

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Porsche 901_red 1967 Porsche 911 – Of course, the highly esteemed archetype of sports cars, which nailed down a classic design and stuck with it through the years. This is the basic, sturdy, classic 911 that is a very good candidate for EV conversion.

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1971-Datsun-240Z-1971 Datsun 240Z – Funny how this car doesn’t look that old, but was actually built 3 years earlier than my Porsche 914. The reason could be that many of these basic design elements have been incorporated into today’s models, or that so many of these were sold and driven in the U.S. that we take this look for granted. Nonetheless, it has ample room under the hood for a new power plant, and I’m guessing replacement parts are easily gettable. It’s also roomy and is plenty of fun to drive.

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austin_mini1967 Austin Mini Cooper – What a cool little car. It’s all about the fender flairs, racing lights and and custom rims – otherwise, the Mini looks very boxy and plain. This would be a blast as an EV, once the battery placement was puzzled out. My guess is the rear seat and trunk would be sacrificed.

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1958_alpha_guilietta 1958 Alpha Romeo Guilietta – Another beautiful car from Alpha, designed by Bertone. I stumbled on this looking for the Alpha GTV, and didn’t know it existed till then. It might be difficult finding parts, but it would be one gorgeous EV.

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sunbeam_tiger_1965_maroon1965 Sunbeam Tiger – This was originally the Sunbeam Alpine, but with a Ford V8 engine dropped in by Jensen, originally proposed by Carroll Shelby. Apparently, the V8 had to be shoe-horned into the engine compartment, which means there would likely be enough room for a traction pack and electric motor. Just sayin.’

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Porsche_356_speedster_EV 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster – Before y’all get up in arms about desecrating the Holy Speedster, be advised that this is a Beck replica, and it’s already been converted to an EV by Jack Rickard of EVTV. This was one of a series of shots that was posted when the car was up for sale on eBay.

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SACRILEGE

As much as I believe in the inevitability of the EV revolution, below are a few cars I would not touch, simply because they are perfect as-is. I’m not sure I would be proud to disfigure them in any way, and I don’t know if electrifying them would really add any value. These cars are meant to burn explosive flammable liquids, and perhaps there will be a clean alternative for those who wish to drive them long after gasoline is outlawed.

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1962-Corvette-Black1962 Corvette –  Remember the old TV show Route 66? Remember Nelson Riddle’s Theme from Route 66? It doesn’t get any cooler than this early model Corvette, which was literally a co-star of that show. This would actually be a bitchin’ electric vehicle, but my palms sweat just thinking about the cascade of hate email that might drown me.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1967 Jaguar XKE - Gorgeous, classy, sleek, elegant…   My stomach goes to knots just thinking about dismantling such an unrivaled masterpiece. The gas engine, chassis, body, and cockpit are a synthesis of perfect design, and changing out any of those elements can only equal something less than perfection. Yet, how crazy would this be as an EV? In my experience with the Porsche, most people are impressed to see a specimen in such good condition, but a bright light bulb always appears over their heads when they learn it’s electric. I never get tired of that “aha” moment, but would they feel the same about an XK-EV? Not sure I want to be known as the “Destroyer of Legends.”

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Shelby_cobra_1968 1967 Shelby Cobra – It’s ridiculous to even think about converting this car to electric. It was obviously designed around the massive gas engine, with barely a thought for the driver. The Cobra reeks of power, looking like it sucks the oil straight out of the ground and burns it raw as needed. Maybe ridiculous as an EV, but I’ll include this link to Carroll Shelby himself driving an electric Cobra. Enjoy.

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Sep
22

AltCarExpo2013

I always look forward to the yearly AltCar Expo at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, mainly because it provides me with a super easy way to show off the electric Porsche 914 to a keenly interested audience. But it’s also an essential way of integrating into a growing community that heralds electric cars as a crucial piece of the future puzzle.

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914_charging

Like the previous year, I parked at the free charging stations among the Leafs and Volts, and broke out the Armor All and microfiber for final touches before the crowds arrived. Then I left a few business cards on my windshield, and hoofed it over to the main exhibit area to scope out the show.

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bmw-I3

One of the first notable encounters was with the new BMW i3. The base model is a pure electric plug-in, but a range extender option can be fitted for an additional $3K. The car was bigger than I expected, but matches the size of the more recent BMW Mini. I would have loved to explore the interior, but they kept this model locked up tight.

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bmw_i3_rear

Here is the rear view. The vehicle has been designed from the ground-up as an EV, and the aluminum frame and carbon fiber body reduce the weight for better pickup and range. BMW had hinted they were launching a breakthrough battery technology in this car, but the range on a single charge is still less than 80 miles. The notched-out windows don’t really speak to me either, but this is still a cool little car. Big brother BMW i8 was absent from this show because there are only a few display models currently in existence.

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caddy_els_front

The Cadillac ELR is built on the same basic GM platform as the Chevy Volt. It’s heavier, so the battery range is closer to 35 miles rather than the Volt’s 40 miles, but the overall power output has been significantly boosted. Since there is no radiator to cool a normal gas engine, the distinctive Cadillac grill on the ELR is just a signifier of a bygone era – a simulacrum as it were. Go look it up.

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caddy_els_int

The cockpit is both posh and snug, with tech and control that exudes Cadillac classiness. Even though the Tesla Model S has set a new design standard for luxury cars, there’s something ultrasexy about the Cadillac philosophy when applied to an electric platform. I don’t completely understand the feelings I’m having. Pinch me.

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smart_front

One of the fun things about the AltCar Expo is the opportunity to drive a decent selection of production electric vehicles from big name manufacturers. Available for a test spin were the Chevy Volt and Spark, the Mercedes B-Class F-CELL, the Ford Focus and C-Max, the Honda Fit EV, the Nissan Leaf, the Toyota Prius Plug-in, and this cute little Smart electric, which I took around the block.

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smart_int

The interior was surprisingly comfortable and quiet, with plenty of leg and headroom. I found the dash, display and controls to be simple and yet well designed, well constructed, and well laid out. On the road, it was snappy and sure-footed. I was reminded by the sales rep that Smart is owned by Mercedes, and the quality of ride and practical comfort for such an economy-sized vehicle upheld the name. I really enjoyed it.

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hybricon_front

hybricon_info

Here is a bit of electric hybrid legacy on display from the Petersen Automotive Museum. It’s amazing how many of these obscure failed projects litter the landscape of EV history. A quick inspection on one knee revealed that the Hybricon’s rear axles were not turned directly by the electric motors, but indirectly by belts that looked only slightly beefier than what spins a vacuum cleaner beater bar.

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ebug_team

But the real highlight of the day was Team Marine from Santa Monica High School, who have spent the last 4 years converting this Volkswagen Beetle convertible to electric from scratch. Other than the electric 914, theirs was the only other representation of EV conversions at the Expo. I really admire their spirit of discovery, innovation and ingenuity, and they deserve all of the praise and attention they are getting.

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ebug_motor

They were using the same HPEVS AC motor that I installed in the Porsche, only they hard-coupled the motor and transmission, and drive the car in second gear without a clutch. Shifting gears is possible if you know how to double-clutch.

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ebug_batteries

The team used 96 GBS brand 100Ah lithium cells, and parallel ganged them in groups of three, in effect tripling their amp hour rating to 300Ah. It gives their electric beetle a projected range of 100 miles! The little green circuit boards you see between some of the cell terminals are components of the distributed battery management system (BMS).

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coda_owner

On a final note, we witness a casualty of an EV extinction. After selling only 100 electric cars in California, Coda Automotive went belly up in May of 2013, leaving Coda buyers stranded without any mechanical or technical support. This is one man’s solution to getting the help he needs. Knowing that many Coda technicians and managers migrated to other EV manufacturers, he came to the AltCar Expo hoping for some generosity, expertise and fellowship. That’s community-building in a nutshell.

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Sep
04

Kismet led me last Saturday to the Virginia Park Farmers Market to investigate charging stations, putting me face-to-face with the Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew Phenix. He introduced himself after seeing the Porsche plugged in, and explained that he recently published a piece for BBC Autos online entitled Electric Dreams: Vintage Cars Ripe for EV Conversion. The article targeted the 10 likeliest classic cars that would benefit from a switch from gas to electrons, and named the Porsche 914 as a prime candidate. Flattered, I was only too happy to pop the bonnets and show him around the car, inside and out.

Snapping photos the whole time, our conversation progressed rapidly from advances in battery technology, to vintage conversions, to future markets for such cars. Before parting ways, we exchanged contact info and agreed that there was a bigger story to be told. Collaborating with the Beeb to spread the gospel of electric vehicles to the world will look great on my resume.

A couple days later, I was astonished that my blog stats showed a crazy number of hits, all originating from the BBC! I traced the referring link to the below webpage. Click on the image to access the full blurb on the BBC Autos site. Thanks for the exposure Matt!

BBC_Autos_Online

Jun
13

hov_sticker_onblackSince my Porsche 914 is now officially registered with Sacramento as an EV, my next step is to apply for a CAV (Clean Air Vehicle) white sticker, so I can parade down the diamond lane with impunity. The DMV offers an explanation of the white, green, and the now defunct yellow stickers on their website, and the ARB (California Air Resources Board) lists a menagerie of vehicles that are approved for either a CAV white or green sticker. Below are the basic catagories of vehicles that are covered:

ZEVs (Zero Emission Vehicles) – Either pure electric vehicles, such as the Tesla, the Fisker Karma, Ford Focus electric, Nissan Leaf, Coda, etc., or a hydrogen fuel cell car, like the Honda Clarity FCV or the Mercedes F-Cell. All of these models qualify for CAV white stickers.

Enhanced AT-PZEV (Enhanced Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles) – These are mainly plug-in hybrids that will all get the green sticker. Examples are the Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion, and Toyota Prius Plug-in. Many of the older (non-enhanced) AT-PZEV vehicles that originally met requirements for the yellow sticker will no longer qualify.

ULEV and SULEV (Ultra Low Emissions, and Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles) – These are mostly first and second generation CNG or LPG (Compressed Natural Gas or Liquid Propane Gas) vehicles, and all qualify for a white sticker. Some earlier hybrid vehicles also fell in this catagory and got yellow stickers, but will no longer be eligible.

green_yellow_stickerAlso included are vehicles that started as gasoline-burners, and were converted to alternative fuels, like CNG, LPG and ethanol. But to qualify for CAV status, ARB requires the retrofit be performed by a certified manufacturer, which disqualifies any individual who does their own conversion. That rule is confirmed in the first paragraph on this ARB page, underlining their focus on manufacturers:

Certification of Alternative Fuel Retrofit Systems

“…A manufacturer is defined as a person who manufactures or assembles an alternative fuel retrofit system for sale in California. An individual who wishes to convert a vehicle for personal use does not fall under this definition and cannot certify a retrofit system in California.”

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hov_fwy_diagram

personal account by EV conversion blogger Ken Chiang recounts his ongoing dialog with the Certifications Department at ARB, and included a contact number for an ARB manager. That manager told me that ARB only issues certifications at the behest of the DMV, stating that the DMV ultimately issues the CAV sticker, not ARB.

But finding DMV language that deals explicitly with individual electric conversions was a real challenge. After some serious digging, one fleeting reference turned up on a DMV FAQ (see question #12), stating that an aftermarket electric conversion can only be approved with a letter of certification from ARB. See below:

Conversions of Fuel Type

12. Q: I want to convert my gasoline powered vehicle to a qualifying fuel type so I can qualify for CAV decals. What are the requirements?

A: …”You must obtain a certification from ARB if your vehicle’s motive power was changed as a result of an aftermarket conversion (e.g., gasoline to electric). A copy of the ARB certification letter must be attached to the CAV decal application.”

It’s not explicitly stated, but the ARB requires aftermarket conversions be performed by an ARB certified manufacturer using ARB certified parts.

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hov_lanes_ends

There’s a bit of a Catch 22 here, and it goes like this:

The DMV runs the CAV sticker program, but depends on ARB to certify that vehicles meet emission standards before issuing a sticker. Even though the DMV has complete authority to verify and update the registration and title of an individually converted vehicle to pure electric (zero emissions), ARB paradoxically cannot certify that same zero emissions vehicle because their rules exclude individual conversions.

This was a bureaucratic cul de sac, and no amount of reason was going to yield passage to the happy diamond lane beyond. Trial and error is sometimes the best approach, so I filled out the CAV Decal application and mailed it without the required ARB certification letter, just to see what would happen. I also included a brief letter that explained my predicament, and waited for a response.

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incomplete_CAV_app

About a month later, I excitedly tore into a letter from the DMV, only to find that my CAV sticker application had been returned as incomplete. A single checked box indicated the DMV could not issue the decal until I paid the $8.00 fee. Curiously, the box next to the ARB eligible vehicle requirement was left unchecked. Is that really all they needed? I wrote a check for 8 shmackers and returned the application.

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CAV_application_rev1

Another month later, I received yet another notice from the DMV that my application was incomplete, which included my undeposited check for 8 dollars. Here is a condensed list of their new requirements:

  • I must schedule an appointment with a DMV referee, who will inspect the vehicle and hopefully issue a signed Verification of the Manufacturer and Vehicle “Test Group.”
  • The referee will also fill out and sign the enclosed Statement of Facts (REG 256) form, of which, section B allows the vehicle to be smog exempted due to electric motive power.
  • Lastly, a copy of the ARB Executive Order and any Executive Order Attachments which would grant qualifying certification must be returned to Sacramento with the previous two items.

An online search turned up a list of ARB Executive Orders, which covers Zero Emission Vehicles under the Z-series subcategory. The ARB website gave a complete list of contacts for the ZEV program, so I picked a couple that seemed relevant and called them for clarification. The friendly, helpful, and frankly chagrined representatives said that the reference to a Vehicle Test Group indicated the DMV did not understand my vehicle was a conversion, and that the requirement for an ARB Executive Order only applied to manufactured vehicles. This underlines a bug in the DMV’s system that automatically directs CAV applications to ARB without regard to whether the vehicle is an individual conversion, which ARB ultimately cannot process.

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arb_banner

Digging deeper through the Sacramento phone roster led me to John Swanton, an ARB manager whose broad perspective on the EV industry explained the strange incongruities described above. In a nutshell, legislators created the CAV sticker program solely as an incentive for the sale of low-emissions vehicles. There are a limited number of stickers printed for distribution, so auto manufacturers lobby vigorously to protect how and to whom these stickers are issued. These stickers are like gold to an automaker, because diamond lane access could sway a skeptical consumer to become an EV owner for the first time. These sales are critical to automakers, since the federal government requires them to produce and sell a quota of low emissions vehicles, frequently at a loss. So the CAV sticker program is designed to incentivize producers as well as buyers. These measures were designed to spur an entire industry by luring people into buying new EVs, not to reward them for simply owning, driving, or for that matter converting an EV. Given that perpective, why would Sacramento sacrifice a valuable worm to someone who has already swallowed the hook, when there are hungry automakers still fishing for buyers?

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BAR_banner

It is understandable that EV converters feel unfairly denied the same privileges afforded to those who buy a manufactured EV. Sadly, Sacramento has not provided any acknowledgement or incentives for the individual who has converted their vehicle to clean fuel with their own money, sweat and time.

But here is a simple solution: The DMV could use the existing Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) Referee program to confirm an EV conversion is emissions-free.  A new category is then added to the ARB’s Eligible Vehicles List that includes ZEV conversions that are confirmed by the BAR Referee. ARB can then certify the vehicle, and DMV can issue a sticker. Ironically, the most vocal opponent to this idea will be the EV manufacturers, who are fighting to keep those stickers available to buyers of their own vehicles. Perhaps the state could print a limited extra run of the white stickers solely for EV conversions, or designate a special new color. Metallic gold would be awesome.

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evclub_banner

There are many others like me who bear the same opinion. The moderator of EV Club, Ken Chiang, has written a letter to the California state legislature. It pointed out that the state confers rights, privileges and incentives to owners of factory-produced electric vehicles, but not to the owners of EV conversions. Those who fork over the money for a Leaf, Volt, Focus, Coda, or even a Tesla deserve kudos for promoting an exciting new way of driving. But building an EV from scratch demonstrates a serious commitment to solve the problems of zero-emissions motoring, and that commitment should be acknowledged with similar privileges.

During my Sacramento phone tree adventures, it became clear that making a difference in how the state rewards investors in EV technology means taking it directly to the state itself. Lobbying our elected officials is the likeliest way to effect change in these policies.

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ca_state_assy

California Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield from the 45th District in Van Nuys has made green automotive technology and infrastructure part of his platform. Below are the state bills that he is currently proposing:

AB2405 – Allows single occupant zero-emission vehicles with Clean Air Vehicle stickers free access to carpool lanes that are converted to toll lanes.

AB2502 – Allows car dealers to incorporate the cost of a level 2 charging station into the car loan.

AB2853 – Requires the state to develop a plan to equip state-owned parking lots and Park and Rides with charging stations.

These are all exciting developments, and a step in the right direction, but they don’t address my incentives and privileges as an owner of an EV conversion. I borrowed as much as needed from the aforementioned letter, and wrote my own.

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Providing an ARB Certification Path for ZEV Conversions

Dear California Representative,

I am an Angeleno who promotes clean energy by having converted my own gas-powered car to a zero-emissions electric vehicle (ZEV). I am among a growing number of people who are building or buying aftermarket EV conversions because they cost less to own than a factory EV, and they also represent an environmentally friendly re-use of a vehicle that might otherwise be sent to the scrapheap. An extensive catalog of these converted vehicles can be viewed online at  http://www.evalbum.com.

Current California law offers privileges to consumers of manufactured zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), but those laws unfairly do not extend to individuals who have converted their own vehicles to zero emissions at their own effort and expense. Those privileges include tax incentives, charging equipment rebates, and access to freeway HOV lanes.

The California DMV promotes the use of low or zero emissions vehicles on our highways by issuing Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) stickers that provide access to HOV lanes. As part of that program, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) is entrusted to certify those vehicles for CAV eligibility.

Understandably, ARB’s mandate is to hold EV manufacturers accountable to clean air standards for the protection of consumers and the general public. But the focus of their CAV certification program is mainly on manufacturing, quality and performance standards for new vehicles and aftermarket parts. They are not oriented or equipped to evaluate the great variety of individual EV conversions that are currently possible. So a path to certification for owners of individual EV conversions has not been provided, excluding them from the same benefits and privileges afforded to the owners of store-bought EVs.

What is the remedy? I propose that individually converted vehicles applying for CAV stickers be directed to the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) referee program for inspection and confirmation of their zero emission status. A new category that includes BAR approved individual conversions can then be added to the ARB List of Eligible Vehicles for CAV certification. This moves the task of dealing with individual vehicles to the BAR, where it is most appropriate, and finally gives individual ZEV conversions a path to certification through ARB.

Furthermore, I would propose that CAV certification for an individual EV conversion would confer the same rights, privileges and tax advantages as those of a manufactured EV, including tax incentives based on conversion costs, as well as relevant discounts on charging equipment and all other existing benefits, present or future.

Please help us amend the law to give individual EV conversions the same benefits and privileges as all other Clean Air Vehicles in our state. Such legislation will help speed the adoption of EVs for a cleaner California and America.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sincerely,

Mark Brems

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ca_state_assy3

Below is a list of California representatives and public servants that were sent this letter. If you own or plan to own an EV conversion, a factory EV, or are just green-minded, you are welcome to use any or all of the above text to lobby for the benefit of all EV owners.

Assembly Member Holly Mitchell, D – Assemblymember.Mitchell@assembly.ca.gov – 54th District

Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield, D – Assemblymember.Blumenfield@assembly.ca.gov - 45th District

Assembly Member Richard Bloom, D – Assemblymember.Bloom@assembly.ca.gov – 50th District

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D – https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

Senator Barbara Boxer, D – http://www.boxer.senate.gov/en/contact/policycomments.cfm

Governor Jerry Brown, D - http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty – Caltrans.Director@dot.ca.gov

Acting Secretary, Business, Transportation & Housing Brian P. Kelly - us@bth.ca.gov

Attorney General Kamal Harris, D - http://oag.ca.gov/

Secretary of State Debra Bowen, D – secretary.bowen@sos.ca.gov

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May
31

405north

Fear is a choice. The question is not how far your EV will travel, but how much anxiety you feel about it. The next range test was a trip to Mulholland Highway near Calabasas to drive the electric Porsche on a world-famous segment of asphalt called The Snake. I’ll describe that more in a bit.

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101_mulholland_exit As reported in an earlier post titled Nailbiter, the little 914’s absolute maximum range on a single charge is about 74 miles. From our house, The Snake is about 39 miles for a round trip of 78 miles, putting it just beyond the capacity of my battery pack to get us safely home. For this mission to succeed, a charging stop would be needed somewhere along the route, preferably at the midpoint in Calabasas. This is why EV homework is so important.

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sagebrush_sign

I remembered my buddy Steve told me about a watering hole in Calabasas that erupts into a complete zoologic spectacle of rockers, bikers and trailerpark supermodels on Saturday nights, called the Sagebrush Cantina. A visit to their website confirmed they also have a Sunday brunch buffet, making it a good candidate for a battery break if there are any charging stations nearby.

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sagebrush_ev_stations

The Recargo app on my smartphone found two charging locations in Calabasas right at Mulholland Highway, and one of them was coincidentally the Sagebrush Cantina! Kismet is always unexpected. It’s a complete mystery why a biker bar would install seven EV charging stations, but it merits a tip of the hat to their management. There were four stations open when we arrived, so I plugged in, tapped my Blink card, and escorted my Sweetie inside for brunch.

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sagebrush_serenade

The Sagebrush itself is sprawling, with several large inside and outside dining areas, multiple bars, an indoor and outdoor stage, and room for half a thousand patrons. Even on a Sunday go-to-church morning, it was still rife with big hair, collagen lips, shameless muffin tops, huge sunglasses, impossible heels, and a variety of interesting wardrobe choices. Pin your Google maps for some prime people-watching.

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karen_sagebrush

Food makes a happy face. The Sagebrush is billed primarily as an authentic Mexican restaurant, although they also serve a variety of American and Southwestern dishes. The brunch itself was fairly traditional but the selection was good, including omelettes, waffles, lox and bagels, crab legs, oysters, several Mexican items, endless champagne, and flavored vodka shots. I would highly recommend spending a leisurely couple hours there, even without an EV to recharge.

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cornell_tunnels

Getting to Calabasas via the steep Sepulveda Pass had knocked the battery pack from 95% down to a 60% charge. Two hours on a Sagebrush charging station returned the pack to 87% for a nominal $3.00 charge on my Blink account. Now the batteries had plenty of juice to get us to The Snake and home again. We jumped on the 101 for a few more miles to the Kanan Road exit, then headed south on Cornell Road to Mulholland Highway. I have a special place in my heart for mountain tunnels, and am always surprised when they show up unexpectedly.

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rockstore_bikes1

At the head of The Snake on Mulholland sits another renown biker hangout called the Rock Store. The building is a page out of Los Angeles history, crafted from volcanic rock and serving as a stagecoach stop in the early 1900s. Surrounded by winding mountain roads, the Rock Store is a likely spot for bikers of every ilk to congregate, swap stories, and drool over their expensive machinery. We popped in just long enough to get a peek, but then continued to the main event.

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snake_road

snake_map

This is The Snake. It’s 1.8 miles long and has 21 turns. Among enthusiasts, The Snake is one of the best known segments of Mulholland Highway; equally one of the best known roads in California. The photo at the top looks east toward curves #19 and #20 on the right side of the picture. The final turn #21 on left side is called Edwards’ Corner, where many a biker has pushed beyond their skill limit.

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paul_herold

Be advised, we didn’t trek here to test my driving skills or watch for crashes. We came to this iconic strip of asphalt to get sweet pictures for this blog, taken by a photographer whose specialty is capturing the action on The Snake. Every Saturday and Sunday, Paul Herold from Rock Store Photos stakes out the choicest corners with his expensive camera rig, and shoots very high resolution images of modern, classic, and vintage cars, motorcycles, and racing bicycles in the mythical context of Mulholland Highway. The watermarked photos are then posted online for perusal and purchase. Quite often, Jay Leno is caught tooling The Snake in anything from an overpowered superbeast to some esoteric vintage roadster borrowed from his famous garage for a Sunday joyride. I was quite excited be initiated into the annals of Mulholland Snake History.

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_DS35891-flat_guardrail

We entered The Snake coming south from the Rock Store, twisting, turning, and hair-pinning our way through all the curves from #1 at the bottom to #21 at the top. This shot was taken as we rounded the last turn, where the camera is usually perched for the afternoon session to make best use of the sun. For the record, it was insanely fun. My female passenger thought we were finished until I did a turnabout at the overlook and ran the full course again in the opposite direction. (She should have known.)

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_DS35895-tilt-line-best

This shot was the pick of the litter. I like the slight angle and the mild blur on the wheels. Clicking it will link to the medium resolution photo downloaded from the Rock Store Photos website. I’ll order the full rez photo to make my bedroom wall poster.

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_DS36025-cu-cabin-faces

After clearing the final corner at the bottom, I pulled another U-turn and shot The Snake one more time for good measure, giving ample time for quality photos at the top. This was all to my wife’s chagrin, who staved off motion sickness by chewing her gum into a foam while nearly snapping the armrest handle off the door. Don’t let that sweet smile fool you.

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kanan_road_south

We chilled at the overlook for a while, watching the pageant of expensive cars and bikes wind their way to the top for their close-ups. After not seeing any crashes or Jay Leno, we split for the coast via Kanan Dume Road. The beauty of this route is a nearly 6 mile downhill, offering an 8% grade at points. It was a great opportunity to see how much charge could be recovered through regenerative braking. The pack’s state-of-charge was 53.5% at the start of our descent, and when we dropped onto Pacific Coast Highway it had climbed to nearly 58%. Money in the battery bank.

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mailbu_ev_charging

We rolled into Malibu Cross Creek with plenty of juice to get home, and with no hurry to get anywhere on this Memorial Day eve. The charging station outside of Ralph Lauren was wide open – an irresistible opportunity to wrangle a free charge. However, we paid in flesh at the theater, with two tickets to the new Star Trek 3D movie costing $36. But on the bright side, the electricity for this all-day adventure totaled about 5 bucks. And by the way, the movie was worth it.

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May
25

You may remember a previous post that painted a comprehensive picture of today’s crop of electric supercars, called Sexy Beasts. They are exotic and appealing, but merely a pipe dream to anybody who makes less than six figures. For widespread adoption of electric cars by the car-buying public, the auto industry needs to provide a product that speaks to the average consumer in economic as well as functional and stylistic terms.

Let me paint for you a new picture of electric cars that the green driver can buy now or before the end of 2013. Many of them are tiny, but provide only the amount of car that is necessary for most purposes. Haters say they are ugly, but negative opinions will change once the future arrives and commonsense shapes our cultural tastes.

Surprisingly, all but a few of these cars are being produced by major established auto makers. Below is a showcase of just those that are currently available in the US (or will be soon).

Cheers.

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Mitsubishi i-Miev

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV website
  • Cost

    • $29,125* for the ES and $31,125* for the SE (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Water-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnetic motor
    • Rated output – 66 hp (49 kW) @ 3000~6000 rpm
    • Max. torque – 145 lb.-ft. (196 Nm) @ 0~300 rpm
    • Top Speed – 81 mph
    • Acceleration – 13 secs (according to Car and Driver)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 330V, 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 22 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 7 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 30 mins
    • MPGe – 126 city, 99 hwy and 112 combined
    • Range – 62 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Rear wheel drive
    • Single speed, Fixed reduction gear
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,579 lbs
    • USA Payload – 750 lbs

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Honda Fit EV

Honda Fit EV

Honda Fit EV

  • Honda Fit EV website
  • Cost

    • $36,625* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC synchronous permanent magnet
    • Rated output – 123 hp (92 kW)
    • Max. torque – 189 lb.-ft. (245 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 90 mph
    • Acceleration – 8.4 secs (according to Motor Trend)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 20 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 15 hours Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 3 hrs
    • MPGe – 132 city, 105 hwy and 118 combined
    • Range – 82 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,252 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Tango T600

ClooneyTango_electrifyingtimes

Tango_EV

  • Official Tango website
  • Lowest tier models are within reach of regular electric car buyers
  • Actor George Clooney took delivery of the first Tango kit on August 9, 2005
  • The second car eventually found its way into the second-floor office of Google CEO Eric Schmidt as part of an April Fool’s Day joke.
  • Cost

    • T600 – $200,000 fully assembled, $160,000 partially assembled
    • T300 – $80,000
    • T200 – $44,000
    • All above prices are before $7500 federal tax credit
  • Motor

    • Motor – Dual 2 Advanced DC FB1-4001 9″ motors
    • T600 Rated output – 805 hp (600 kW)
    • T300 Rated output – 400 hp (300 kW)
    • T200 Rated output –  268 hp (200 kW)
    • Max. torque – 3,000 lb-ft
    • T600 Top Speed – 150 mph (approx)
    • T600 Acceleration – 3.2 secs (Holy @#%&!)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 32 to 60 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 24 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = (not offered)
    • MPGe – (not specified)
    • Range – 200 – 240 miles (depending on sustained speed)
  • Powertrain

    • Dual rear wheel drive
    • Dual direct drive transmissions
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,326 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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BMW i3 Electric Coupe

BMW i3 Electric Coupe

  • Slated for worldwide delivery in November of 2013
  • BMW i3 website
  • Cost

    • $52,000* (range extender option for addl $4000) (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC permanent magnet
    • Rated output – 170 hp (125 kW)
    • Max. torque – 250 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 93 mph (limited)
    • Acceleration – 7.9 secs (according to BMW)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion, temperature-regulated
    • Capacity – 22 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = (not specified) Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 30 mins
    • MPGe – Ratings not yet provided
    • Range – 100 miles (200 miles with extender)
  • Powertrain

    • Rear wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,755 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Fiat 500E

Fiat 500e

Fiat 500E

  • Slated for sale in California in the second quarter of 2013
  • Fiat 500E website
  • Cost

    • $31,800* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Three-phase AC synchronous
    • Rated output – 111 hp (83 kW)
    • Max. torque – 147 lb-ft (200 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 85 mph
    • Acceleration – 8.9 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Liquid-cooled and heated
    • Capacity – 24 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 23 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = not specified
    • MPGe – 122 city, 108 hwy and 116 combined
    • Range – 87 combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – less than 3,000 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Chevrolet Spark EV

Chevrolet Spark

Chevrolet Spark EV

  • Slated to street in the US in late Summer 2013 in California and Oregon.
  • Chevy Spark EV website
  • Cost

    • $27,495* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Oil-cooled, permanent magnet
    • Rated output – 130 hp (100 kW)
    • Max. torque – 400 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 90 mph
    • Acceleration – 7.6 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Liquid-cooled
    • Capacity – 21 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 20 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 7 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 20 mins
    • MPGe – 119 city/hwy combined
    • Range – 82 city/hwy combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Automatic transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,989 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Wheego LiFe

wheego_life

  • Official Wheego website
  • The body and chassis come from Shuanghuan Automobile in China.
  • Battery pack is rated at 230 Ah for better range
  • Cost

    • $32,995* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC-50 three-phase induction
    • Rated output – 60 hp peak
    • Max. torque – 95 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 65 mph
    • Acceleration – 11 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 30 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 21 hrs
    • Charge time from 50 to 100% SOC (240V) = 5 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = none supplied
    • MPGe – Figures not provided
    • Range – 100 approx
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Graziano one speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,828 lbs
    • USA Payload – 472 lbs

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Smart ForTwo Electric

Smart ForTwo Electric

2013-smart-fortwo-ev-automotive_com

  • Smart is owned by Mercedes-Benz
  • For a very Smart and funny commercial, click here.
  • Smart Automotive website
  • Cost

    • $25,000* for the coupe and $28,000* for the cabriolet (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Water-cooled permanent 3-phase AC motor
    • Rated output – 55kW / 74 hp
    • Max. torque – 130 Nm / 96 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 78 mph
    • Continuous Output – 35kW (47hp)
    • Max Power (Peak/Boost Function) – 55 kW / 74 hp
    • Acceleration – 0 – 62 mph, 11.5 s
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Manufactured by Deutsche ACCUmotive
    • Capacity – 17.6 kWh (dependent on power output and temperature)
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (240V) = 6 hours Charge time from 20-100% SOC (240V) = 4.5 hrs Charge time from 20-80% SOC (240V) = 3.5 hrs
    • MPGe – 122 city, 93 hwy and 107 combined
    • Range – 76 city, 59 hwy and 68 combined
  • Powertrain

    • Rear wheel drive
    • Stepless automatic transmission with built-in bevel gear differential
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 2,094 lbs (coupe) 2138 lbs (cabrio)
    • USA Payload – 419 lbs (coupe) 397 lbs (cabrio)

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Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

  • Nissan Leaf website
  • Cost

    • $28,800* for the S
    • $31,820* for the SV
    • $34,840* for the SL (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC synchronous motor
    • Rated output – 80kW / 107hp
    • Max. torque – 180 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 93 mph
    • Acceleration – 0 – 60 mph – 9.9 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 24 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 14 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 8 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 30 mins
    • MPGe – 129 city, 102 hwy
    • Range – 73 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed, Fixed reduction gear
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) ~ 3,300 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric

  • Official Ford Focus Electric website
  • Cost

    • $37,995* (after $2000 cash back and before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC synchronous
    • Rated output – 143 hp (107 kW)
    • Max. torque – 181 lb.-ft. (245 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 84 mph
    • Acceleration – 9.5 secs (according to MotorWeek)
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – Liquid-cooled
    • Capacity – 23 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 20 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 4 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = Not offered
    • MPGe – 120 city/hwy combined
    • Range – 76 miles combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,691 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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VW Golf blue-e-motion

vw-golf-blue-e-motion-autoblog

  • Slated for sale in the US in “late 2013.”
  • Official VW blue-e-motion UK website
  • Click here for a shot of the power plant.
  • Cost

    • $30,000* (according to Car and Driver) (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – permanent magnet synchronous
    • Rated output – 114 hp (85 kW)
    • Max. torque – 199 lb-ft
    • Top Speed – 87 mph
    • Acceleration – 11.8 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 26.5 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 15 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 7.9 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 50 mins
    • MPGe – Not provided
    • Range – 93 miles
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 3,410 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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Toyota RAV4 EV

Toyota RAV4 EV

  • Toyota RAV4 EV website
  • Cost

    • $49,800* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – AC induction motor
    • Rated output – 154 hp (115 kW)
    • Max. torque – 273 lb.-ft.
    • Top Speed – 100 mph
    • Acceleration – 7 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion
    • Capacity – 41.8 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 44 hours
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 15 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = Not offered
    • MPGe – 103 city, 76 hwy
    • Range – 103 miles average
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 4,032 lbs
    • USA Payload – 937 lbs

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Toyota Scion IQ EV

  • Only 100 iQ EVs will be built for colleges and fleets – 90 for the U.S. and 10 for Japan.
  • In March 2013, UC Irvine took delivery of the first 30 units for use in its carsharing fleet.
  • Official Toyota Scion IQ EV website
  • Cost

    • ¥3.6 million (~US$$45,000)
  • Motor

    • Motor – Air-cooled
    • Rated output – 63 hp (47 kW)
    • Max. torque – 120 lb-ft (163 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 78 mph
    • Acceleration – 13.4 secs
  • Battery

    • Lithium-ion – high output
    • Capacity – 12 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = not specified
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 3 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 15 mins
    • MPGe – 138 city, 105 hwy and 121 combined
    • Range – 50 miles
  • Powertrain

    • Front wheel drive
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – (not specified)
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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BDY e6

BYD e6

  • BYD e6 – Currently sold in the US for fleet customers only.
  • Company backed in part by Warren Buffett.
  • Official BYD e6 website
  • Cost

    • $35,000* (before $7500 federal tax credit)
  • Motor

    • Motor – 1 or 2 permanent magnet synchronous
    • Rated output – 100.6 hp (75 kW)
    • Max. torque – 332 lb.-ft. (245 Nm)
    • Top Speed – 87 mph
    • Acceleration – 8 secs (according to BYD)
  • Battery

    • BYD Fe Battery – lithium iron phosphate
    • Capacity – 61.4 kWh
    • Charge time from 0 – 100% SOC (120V) = 20 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -100% SOC (240V) = 9 hrs
    • Charge time from 0 -80% SOC (440V) = 40 mins
    • MPGe – not specified
    • Range – 186 miles city/hwy combined
  • Powertrain

    • Front/rear all-wheel drive (2 motor option)
    • Single speed transmission
  • Dimensions and Weights

    • Net weight (US Curb-Weight) – 5,202 lbs
    • USA Payload – (not specified)

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These are just the offerings in the US. An upcoming post will give a taste of the cars that are defining the EV market in the rest of the world.

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