Of all the email I received from yesterday’s post on GM’s Chevy Volt sales numbers, hands down the best was from reader J. W.:
When gas hit $4.00/gallon the first time I converted a ‘75 VW beetle to electric drive. I thought I would save money on gas. Being a utility engineer I installed an electric meter to measure the KWH used to see how much money I would save. Turns out that including charging losses it costs me about 3 cents a mile for electricity. Now comes the bad part. In 3 years and 10,000 miles driven, I have had 3 sets of lead acid batteries. This raises the cost per mile from 3 cents to 33 cents per mile. The best range I ever got was 25 miles.
The main lesson from this adventure: I really appreciate the power, efficiency, and cost effectiveness in a gallon of good old Gasoline.
Since the only thing I know how to do with my soft, little-girl hands is to tap-tap-tap on a keyboard, I was pretty blown away by this. So I pressed J. W. for details: What was the drive like? Did you do the conversion from a set of plans? Here’s his response:
No plans or schematic. I just read about conversions. The basic theory is simple:
Connect a large DC motor to the transmission with an alignment plate. Wire as many batteries as you can fit in the vehicle in series to get as much voltage as possible. Run this power through a “controller” that takes throttle inputs and regulates power flow to the motor, add a high voltage charger, and that’s it.
It can be driven just like a normal standard transmission car, but it isn’t necessary to use the clutch to get rolling. DC motors have lots of torque available at 0 rpm. You do need to clutch when shifting to second which starts around 30 mph and is good to 55. I only use third gear over 60. It has good acceleration when the batteries are charged up. My favorite trick is to step on the accelerator when the light changes and silently zip away from the other cars at the light I will be half way down the block when they clear the intersection.
Can you smell the awesome? The best part? J.W. is looking to sell this magnificent electric Frankenbug. (For just $4,000!) So if you’re in the Austin, Texas area and want to join the EV revolution, drop me a line, and I’ll pass it on.
J. W. passed along this picture of the Frankenbug:
And the engine: