OK, we've heard all the jokes about electric cars not
having long enough extension cords, and listened to
so-called authorities who pooh-pooh battery-powered
commuter vehicles as "impractical". But down in the Lone
Star State there's a man who's taken all the jibes in
stride and come up with a truly viable means of
converting any standard economy car — Vega, Volkswagen,
Pinto, etc. — to electric power. Electric car conversion has come to Texas.
Robert G. Bucy started four years ago with an old Renault
(junkyard variety). The first thing he did was to take out
the car's engine — along with associated hardware, such
as the radiator, muffler, gas tank, and so on — but he
left in the transmission and kept the flywheel. Next, Bucy
went looking for a suitable heavy-duty electric motor
and found just what he needed in a 36-volt 200 ampere unit
from a forklift. To provide power for the rig, Bob rounded
up 16 used golf cart batteries of the 6-volt, 190-ampere-hour type.
After laying plywood down in the trunk and under the hood
to hold the batteries (each of which weighs a hefty 60
pounds) Bucy then mated the motor to the salvaged flywheel,
welded up some engine mount brackets, bolted things
together, and in no time was driving the only
electric-powered Renault in Dallas. (Or for that matter,
all of Texas!)
Bucy's downright proud of his little automotive creation — because, among other reasons, it's truly
road-worthy. "Most electric cars are actually golf
carts with bodies molded to resemble an auto," Bucy
maintains. "But with my Lectric Kar you have full
suspension, gears, a clutch, and standard brakes.
How does the Bucy Kar perform? Well, it won't "burn out" at
a stoplight, and the vehicle's range is limited to 30 miles
at present, but the machine can cruise at up to 50 mph
and it will carry Bob to work at a total fuel cost of only
1/2 cent per mile. With a 10-hp motor that's nearly always
being run at capacity, the Lectric Kar is comparable in
efficiency to a motorcycle (hence doesn't cost as much to
operate as even the "ordinary" piston powered version of
the same car).
Now, about that "fuel" — isn't it true that when you
plug into your power company's lines to charge something
like Lectric Kar's set of batteries, you may be tapping
energy from a plant 100 miles away that's spewing smoke
into the air? "True," says Bucy, "but electrical generating
plants today pollute the atmosphere approximately 100 times
less per unit horsepower than the
internal-combustion-engine vehicles which are causing
nearly 70% of America's air pollution."
With a Lectric Kar, then, you'll not only save bundles of
money on gasoline — and lessen your impact on
the environment — but you'll never again need to buy or
change motor oil, antifreeze, spark plugs, fan belts, or
any of a hundred other items that are required to keep a
Detroit iron running.
Bucy says that the Lectric Kar conversion costs $400 to
$800 and is something "the average do-it-yourselfer can
handle". Maybe, maybe not. You may need a machinist's help
to fit the flywheel to the forklift motor and, if you don't
weld, you'll have to find someone who does when it comes
time to fabricate your vehicle's new engine mounts.
However, these are things you can pay someone else to do
(using the money you receive from the sale of your
Renault's, VW's, or whatever's old engine).