Country Lore: I Built a Small Electric Car

You can build this small electric car for neighborhood travel.
By Lonnie Green
June/July 2010
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It won’t win a prize for beauty, but his small electric car does get him where he’s going.

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Imagine having a small electric car that will go 25 miles per hour, has a range of at least 20 miles on a charge, will go from 0 to 25 in two seconds and costs just over $1,000. The dilemma is that the big automakers aren’t building them. The only way to get this car is to build it yourself.

I started building my dream electric car about three years ago. I wanted a car that would take me to town comfortably, be nonpolluting and cheap to operate, and could be built from readily available materials. I built three prototypes before constructing what I think is the pinnacle in a home-built electric car. I also think anyone can build this car in a home shop.

The car weighs 340 pounds with wet-cell golf-cart-style batteries, and costs an estimated $1,245 in materials to build. I had to consider licensing the car, because I want to legally drive it on the road in California. All in all, the licensing was easy as long as the vehicle was less than 2 horsepower.

Here are a few other things I learned about the licensing in California: To be licensed as a “neighborhood electric vehicle,” a car must have four wheels. My three-wheeled car will be licensed as a “motor-driven bicycle.” I had to run the motor on 24 volts to get below the 2-horsepower rule. I also needed a headlight, a rearview mirror, brake lights, a taillight, turn signals and a horn. You should check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to learn about local rules before building an electric car to use on public roads.

As a designer/builder, I try to build machines to address needs in my own life. I have also built a backhoe that I’ve used extensively on my own properties. I now sell plans for the backhoe and the electric car on my website,

Lonnie Green
Cedar Ridge, California

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