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Why is Electric Power Better?

Q:  Is electric power more efficient?

A:  Yes, according to an article in the April 2013 issue of Scientific America investing one gigajoule of energy in the production of gasoline will drive a car 3,600 miles while the same energy will drive an electric car 6,500 miles.  Another way to look at is I have a 27KW battery pack in my car.  A gallon of gas contains 33.4 KW of energy.  My car with a gas engine was EPA rated at 18-21 miles per gallon yet I can easily drive 80 miles on less energy than is contained in one gallon of gasoline.  Additionally, I don’t have a radiator and have virtually no waste heat.

Q:  Does it make financial sense to convert a car?

A:  Probably not on a strictly financial analysis at this time.  My electric 300ZX cost about $20K to convert including the cost of the car.  Fuel costs for it are less than half the costs of my 2007 Toyota Prius but it will take a long time to make up $20K.

Q:  What is the best car to convert?

A:  There is really no right answer for this question because it all depends on the individual.  The short answer is the car you want to drive.  If you are going to convert a car, you are going to spend a lot of time and a fair amount of money.  You don’t want to expend that effort on a piece of junk.  In general lighter and smaller will go farther on a given quantity of energy than larger and heavier.  If you don’t need the range, then this is not an issue, so pick the car you want.

Q:  How far does the average American drive every day? 

A:  This obviously varies greatly but the average according to ABC News is 16 miles one way or 32 miles round trip.  This is easily within the range of BEVs.  My commute is about 22 miles round trip.  With a usable range of 80 miles, I charge every 2-3 days depending on side trips.  Since I charge at home when I am a sleep, it is really really convenient.  No stopping for gas, no smelly gas stations, no sending money to the oil companies or overseas but you will have to remember to wash your windshield every once in a while (I normally do that when I get gas).

Q:  What is the difference in fuel costs between gasoline and electricity?

A:  This depends on the price of gasoline and electricity in your area.  Here in Idaho at $3.50 per gallon my Prius costs about $0.07 for gasoline ($3.50/50mpg=$0.07 per mile).  Our electricity rates are about $0.725 per KW here in Boise, Idaho.  Over the past 11,000 miles my average cost per mile is just less than $0.03 per mile.  The US Dept of Energy has developed an egallon figure to compare electricity to gasoline.  You can access the comparison at their web site.  The site has local electricity rates and gas prices so you can see the results for your local area.  The web address is   http://energy.gov/articles/egallon-how-much-cheaper-it-drive-electricity

Q:  What is involved in converting a vehicle to electric power? 

A:  With reasonable mechanical skills, it is not that difficult.  You may have to hire out some specialized machining, but overall it is just taking out the gas engine and replacing it with an electric.  My shop has a welder so I was able to make my own motor mount.  Other than that, I used just basic hand tools.  The basic process is to remove all the systems involved with the internal combustion engine (ICE) and replace them.  Some of these are easy, some are a little harder.  In my case the bigger problem was space management, making everything fit with impacting the inside of the car.  I spent a lot of time sipping on a beer and trying to figure out how to make it fit and look good.