Sunday, October 07, 2007

Electroauto Electric Car Seminar in San Luis Obispo Review

I was able to attend most of an electric vehicle seminar at Cal Poly today sponsored by the Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition and presented by Bob of Electroauto. Now I've lusted after the electric car conversion kits from Electroauto for years, so it was interesting to see the husband and wife founding team presenting information on electric vehicle practicality and efficiency, cost of conversion and maintenance, conversion techniques, chassis selection, battery issues, and basically answered any question someone would have if you're considering building an electric car.

The electroauto kits range from $6000 for a "universal" DC kit (+ ~$2000 for batteries every 4 years or so) that requires some fabrication and fitting by the installer, to $13,415 (+batteries and shipping) for a custom AC "Voltsporsche" kit that bolts directly into a Porsche 914 chassis. The Voltsporsche kit is the highest performace, with a top speed of 100mph and a range from 100-150 miles although most kits promise highway speeds up to 70mph with a range of 50-100 miles. The speed and range of these kits is multifactorial and depends primarily on the weight and aerodynamics of your chassis, choice of AC or DC kits, and your choice of batteries, but is also affected by driving techniques, and use of accessories like A/C, heat, and other electronics. AC kits, although more expensive, are slightly more efficient and allow regenerative braking (which reclaims up to 1/3 of the energy used to accelerate to that speed) and a broad array of battery choices in comparison to DC kits. These kits can be installed by a technician for around $5000, or a tinkerer with moderate skill can install the kit in a weekend or two, depending on the shape of your chassis and the kit you choose.
Conclusions? If you drive 50 miles or less (85%+ of commuters) and are in the market for a vehicle, one of these are the way to go. For $20-$30k, you can have a fully functional highway-capable electric vehicle with 1/3 of the operating cost of a regular car, and significantly less or even no emissions, depending on your power source. One of the common myths you'll hear from detractors (like auto manufacturers and naysayers that don't check their sources) is the argument that you make just as much pollution from the power source from your charging as you do from a combustion engine. The so-called "long tailpipe" phenomenon, is decidedly false - even with power from the dirtiest coal-fired power plant, emissions from charging an electric car are 2/3 less than that of a combustion engine. Calculations demonstrating this are detailed on the Tesla Roadster website (pdf file link). Although vehicles like the Zap-X and Tesla roadster are slotted to be available over the next few years, they cost $60K and $100K respectively, and are thus far vaporware. We will be waiting a few years before consumer electrics come down to the price of an installed Electroauto kit, and although they will probably have somewhat longer ranges, they will be more complicated, not be user maintainable, and you won't have the fun and pride of selecting, building and maintaining your own custom vehicle! With battery technology improving rapidly, you can start with cheap and reliable flooded lead batteries, and as you recycle and replace your batteries every 3-5 years, more efficient and lighter options will become more and more reasonably priced.

Essentially, if you are prepared to spend the money on a new or newer used car and you are prepared for a little legwork or some tinkering, this is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to have a mid-range commuter car. If you slap some solar panels on your home as well, you'll be the envy of every treehugger on the block!


Blogger Ben said...

Hello Clint Slaughter, I think you were really lucky to attend that seminar.And I have being searching about electric car conversion kits and found this interesting. And again a solar panel would be another good idea for the power used to charge the car, but how much will the initial cost be around.

11:10 AM  

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