200 Miles on Used Lead
Is it really possible to build an electric car that can travel at highway speeds for 200 miles on old lead-acid batteries and do it at a cost of around $3000? Believe it or not, that's what David Cloud has done with his highly modified -- and we mean highly modified -- Geo Metro.
Yes, that really is the remnants of a 1997 Geo Metro under that fiberglass and Kevlar skin. Cloud's stated objective was to demonstrate what's possible through optimized aerodynamics without throwing the combined GDP of a third world country at the problem of building an efficient and affordable electric vehicle.
And yes, he claims to have built it for under $3000. Now that doesn't include his labor, nor the used parts he had lying around his electric car conversion shop near Seattle, Washington, including decade-old lead-acid batteries or a pair of 8-inch Advanced DC electric motors, one for each rear wheel. Most of the money was used to buy a pair of GEM neighborhood electric vehicle controllers off of eBay and for the special Kevlar-based corrugated sheeting used to fabricate the floor pan. For the battery pack, he assembled strings of old and new lead acid batteries used for Electrathon racing, balancing them into ten strings, totaling 60 individual batteries in all.
He cut the Geo Metro in half, keeping the front chassis and building his own rear end with the motors mounted on individual swing arms. Over this he created his highly streamlined fiberglass nose and tail cones. Removing the engine, transmission, exhaust system and fuel tank reduced the weight of the vehicle to 1,200 pounds. Adding three-score lead-acid batteries added a ton to the vehicle, but he claims it still handles well.
To see how far he could drive the car, he and a friend drove it from his home to Bellingham and back, twice. The first drive was hampered by rainy weather and qwackers pulling in front of him and then, inexplicably slowing down. Last Sunday, he succeeded in making the entire trip -- at freeway speeds -- without interference and finally depleted the battery at 201 miles.
He acknowledges the car isn't pretty and that there's lots of room for improvement, including incorporating an onboard generator to give the vehicle more range and less anxiety.
You can listen to our 24-minute conversation using either of the two MP3 players to the right, or by downloading the 5.8MB file to your hard drive for playback on your favorite MP3 device.