Don’t Want to Wait for a Volt? Build Your Own Electric Vehicle

Charlton Jones and his electric Porsche 914No doubt about it: the Chevy Volt looks like it will be one sweet ride (even the not-so-sporty production vehicle). But a group of electric vehicle enthusiasts here in the St. Louis area isn’t willing to wait for the hybrid Volt’s 2010 roll-out… so they’ve built their own fully electric vehicles.

[social_buttons]Today’s Post-Dispatch features the Gateway Electric Vehicle Club, and a few of the EVs that members have built themselves. Retired college professor Charlton Jones (pictured above) bought a ’74 Porsche 914 on Ebay, and with a little elbow grease and money (OK, a lot of money — $19,000) converted into a fully electric vehicle. On the Illinois side of the river, Ron Erb converted a ’96 Ford Ranger to an EV (for a mere $7,500). Erb was able to offset some of his costs with a $4000 state tax rebate (unfortunately, we don’t have that in Missouri…).

Granted, neither of these vehicles are muscle cars: Jones’ Porsche takes a minute to get up to 60 mph, and Erb claims his Ranger can “go 80… but not very far.” And each requires significant charging time: 7 hours for the Ranger so it can go 35 miles. The cost for that recharge is hard to beat, though: 98 cents.

Both EVers cite the time frame for the release of the Chevy Volt as motivations for building their vehicles; I’ve got a hunch that both of these guys were really driven by the opportunity to create something themselves, though. Erb, for instance, noted how he and his son had turned the conversion into a father-son project. While some will point out to the various drawbacks, each vehicle can serve as commuter cars with little change in lifestyle (Erb’s wife drives the truck to work each day — a 12-mile round trip).

In each case, they’ve built vehicles that serve their actual driving needs… rather than those rare situations that suddenly become so important to most of us when we’re car shopping (how often do you really need 4-wheel drive, or 451 horses?). I’m not trying to create guilt here; rather, just noting how our motivations for our vehicle purchases tend to involve issues beyond our actual transportation routines. In the case of Jones and Erb, when they focused on the driving they do, they found an EV suited them nicely.

Creating a car isn’t an option for everyone… but it’s inspiring to see ordinary folks doing just that. I’ll definitely put the Gateway Electric Vehicles Club on the “must-vist” list.

Image credit: Gateway Electric Vehicle Club

  1. ZAP Xebra

    The other option that finds a lot of favor with people is keeping the gas guzzler for long and out of town trips and getting an EV for getting around town and for the daily commute. This is very cost effective for most.

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