As a teenager living in Alaska and an avid skier, Bart Grabman knows all about snow. And he could see first hand that global warming meant less snow and an earlier spring … in other words … terrible conditions for skiing. What Bart didn’t know much about was cars, but that didn’t stop him from taking on a project to convert a gasoline-powered car to electric, reducing his overall contribution to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Here’s what Bart had to say about his electric Volkswagen Super Beetle.
MNN: What inspired you to build an electric car?
Bart Grabman: I was taking a class at school called Passages, and the purpose of the class was to take something that you’re interested in and expand on it in some way. For instance, in the past, one student who had an interest in carpentry built a gazebo for students to enjoy during lunch. I had two interests that I wanted to expand upon. I wanted to do something to help the environment, and I wanted to learn more about cars. So I thought it would be interesting to combine the two ideas into one project. Building an electric car just seemed like a logical next step.
Is the car finished?
I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s pretty close. It still needs some minor wiring … I have 96 volts of car batteries to power it and I still need to wire this to the existing wiring that came with the car so that everything functions correctly. I’ve taken out for short trips in front of my house, but it’s not ready for longer trips yet.
How much did you know about cars before you started this project?
I pretty much knew nothing about automotive technology when I started this project. But I’ve done a lot of learning. One good thing is that I choose a VW Super Beetle over a more modern, complex car. This has been really helpful because it’s relatively simple in terms of the mechanisms and the motor. The VW Super Beetle is pretty basic so it was a good place to start … especially with my lack of knowledge.
If you were to start this project again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
I would have started with a different car. I know I said before that it was a good idea to start with a car that is simple. But the one that I got … well, it had seen better days. The floors were rusted out and the interior wasn’t it good shape. I’ve had to spend a lot of time working on those types of things. I think if I’d chosen a better car to begin with, it would have been easier going.
What would you say has been your biggest obstacle in completing this project?
Time and money. I’m a high school student, and I have a lot of stuff going on, so I don’t have a lot of time or money to spare. But there have been a lot of people who have helped me out on this project in some way or another. So I’ve never had any trouble getting things done when I do actually work on them. But just finding that time is one of the hardest things.
What is the environmental issue that concerns you the most?
I’d have to say global warming. Being from Alaska, where more than half the year here is snow, I’ve noticed more recently a decline in the snow levels. Springs are earlier and we have record-breaking fires in the state every year because its drier and the warmer temperatures bring more pests that kill the trees. Global warming is very evident here.
What advice do you have for other teenagers who are looking to try a project like this?
Find something that you’re interested in and don’t be discouraged by setbacks because there will of course always be some setbacks … if not many. But the results will definitely outweigh the troubles. As long as you follow through, it’s going to be a very rewarding experience when you’re finished.