Al Yanda's Homemade Electric Car

Al Yanda, A Kansas City architect, builds his own version of the ultra-light, ultra-efficient electric car.

| September/October 1975

In Issue No. 33, we gave MOTHER's readers a look at Bob Way's single-cylinder, three-wheeled "Wayfarer", and mentioned that "a whole bunch of other folks are also working on ultra-light, ultra-efficient town cars, too". Well, here's another member of that elite group of hardy pioneers: Al Yanda . . . a Kansas City architect with a particular disdain for Detroit's two-ton gas-guzzling status symbols, and a very special talent for putting together his own "better idea". In this case, it's a sleek little homemade electric car he built for somewhere around $800.

Al's not the kind of guy to jump feet first into a project, and then pull his head in second . . . instead, he designed a 20-inch, to-scale cardboard model of his brainstorm — just to make sure everything fit the way he wanted, y'know — then proceeded to build a full-size plywood prototype (just to make doubly sure), and then went to work on the real thing. And his painstaking planning shows.

Take a look at the body, for instance. Al tossed fancy appearances to the wind — literally — and come up with a lightweight sheet aluminum structure specifically designed to offer minimum air and gravity resistance. And what's beneath his homemade electric car sounds a little like a promotion sheet for one of those "sexy" European jobs: four-wheel independent suspension, front and rear disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, and "tuck-away" headlights. And there are a number of fairly radical innovations, too, like low-friction Delrin fittings to cut the number of lubrication points down to a single great big one (on the steering column), and a hand-operated crank windshield wiper for rainy days.

But the real heart of the matter is what makes Al's runabout run. A total of 250 pounds of the 550-pound car is batteries ... four 6-volt Gould lead-acid units, hooked up to two permanent magnet Bosch 1.14-horsepower motors. A fan belt connects each of the drive units to a pulley wheel fixed to the car's split rear axle. When Mr. Yanda wants to go, he simply pushes a floor pedal that engages either two, three, or four of the batteries at a time . . . and he's off. Top speed is 35 mph-plus, with a range of around 30 or 35 miles per charge. Just right for non-polluting jaunts to work, or the neighborhood grocery store.

Will success spoil Al Yanda? Not a chance . . . by the time you read this, the architect/inventor will probably have added side windows, Teflon hubcaps, and more efficient springs to his little vehicle. And he plans to install a regenerative braking mechanism, too, that will charge the batteries every time he hits the brakes. Here's a man who knows that once you've got something good, you can always make it better!

Which — when you think about it — is a lot more than can be said for some of the "professional" auto makers up in Motor City.

1/11/2009 8:17:04 AM

AL, just wanted to say "keep on keepin'on..and to RON: have you ever flown in an airplane? how many times did the wright bros try before they got it right, or henry ford hmmm? or maybe HOWARD HUGHES ? watch directv much?

1/11/2009 7:41:41 AM

Ron, I think the future of cars can come from innovators who take it upon themselves to make what the big companies won't. Also in many states you can make these cars street legal by registering them as a custom vehicle, whether or not you should drive them on the street, well I guess that depends on how much you trust your building skills. I plan on building my own.

1/8/2009 8:05:08 PM

C'mon, how about some real stuff instead of this garbage. It will NEVER be approved for street use anywhere. It won't pass crash tests or meet any Federal Safety standards. It's just fantasy.

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