GOOD FOR ANOTHER 200,000 MILES: James Boncek and his hands-on EV conversion.
Do you like the idea of a $2,009 electric sports car? So do I! The Pontiac Fiero built by Bryce Nash is known as “Project: Parts Bin,” and it was constructed out of a worn-out 1988 plastic-bodied Fiero and a unique junkyard find: an electric Chevy S10 pickup truck. You can build your own electric car, too. Read on.
Here, on video, you can see how some Canadians built their own electric cars:
Nash's mid-engined Fiero retained its V-6 powerplant but added a complete electric drivetrain in the front. Nash outfitted the neatly built “hybrid” with two accelerator pedals, so he can move out on batteries or gas power. That saved considerably on the power electronics in regular hybrids, and it echoed the approach taken by early hybrid pioneers in the 1910s.
The Fiero won the “Best Engineering” award, and came in 20th overall in the Grassroots Motorsports “$2009 Challenge.” The idea, of course, was to build a competitive vehicle for $2,009 (it will be $2,010 next year) and face off against other cheapskates in a Gainesville, Fla., competition held a couple of weeks ago. Jay Leno, in a videotaped message says, “Building a car for $2,009 and beating the heck out of it — what’s more fun than that?” he asked.
“It’s a really neat installation,” said Rennie Bryant, a Challenge organizer who doubles as a Pompano Beach BMW repair guy. “You can’t even tell it’s electric. It’s all-GM, so it looks like it all belongs where it is.”
The Fiero was mid-pack on the track. "It may not have been the fastest thing at the competition, but it was the most innovative," said Tom Heath of Grassroots Motorsports. "It's a terrific car, with terrific packaging and really works as a whole assembly. For a first-year entry from a guy with no electrical engineering background it was really impressive. And working with junkyard parts really helped: To duplicate that car from scratch would have cost many thousands of dollars. But he was under our $2,009 budget with room to spare."
The rules of the Challenge are pretty simple: All the money invested in the cars, including the purchase price, can’t total more than $2,009 (only safety equipment is excluded). Competitors in 2009 included:
A Mazda Miata with the V-8 drivetrain of a wrecked Lexus LS400 (how did that one handle, I wonder?) built by some Georgia Tech engineering students;
A turbocharged ’93 Honda Civic via Texas A&M;
The “Zamboni,” a 1959 tube-chassis V-8 kit car;
A '74 Volkswagen Super Beetle.
The cars go through both drag races (Nash must have kept both pedals to the metal) and concourse judging. Lee Graser and his ultra-light Zamboni were the overall winners.
I was equally cheered this morning by news of a fellow Fairfield, Conn., resident, 26-year-old James Boncek, who built an electric car from a 1993 150,000-mile Toyota Tercel he bought for $100 in 2004. The New England Technical Institute graduate, with the help of MXenergy, installed 10 Deka lead-acid batteries in the trunk and two under the hood.
“The car has a great chassis and a new heart, so it’ll go for another 200,000 miles, Boncek said. “It’s a complete recycle.” The car can do 50 miles on a charge (which takes six to eight hours) and reach 70 mph.
Alas, Boncek probably wouldn’t qualify for the $2009 Challenge, since the conversion cost $10,000. But he did all the grunt work himself, and MXenergy gave him a financial contribution because of his “environmental commitment.” Boncek, whose day job is as technical director at the Fairfield Theatre Company, told me that he was happy to invest money in his installation because "I wanted something better than a golf cart. The cost varies depending on what you want." He's looking forward to getting his cheap EV registered, after which it will become his everday driver.
You could do what these guys did. My friend Seth Leitman wrote the new edition of the book Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, and he says great starter vehicles include the Honda Civic, the VW Bug and the Ford Ranger. He says a do-it-yourself conversion can be accomplished in 120 hours or two weeks of solid work. For an investment of about $3,000 in batteries and $6,500 in parts, you should be off and running with a car with an 80- to 100-mile range. Or you can find a junked S10 EV and do it for $2,009.
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.