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Peter Ohler's eSpyder electric car
Peter Ohler's immaculate eSpyder # 6 built in 2003. His web site contains numerous photos and construction details, as well as video of an early tire-smokin' test drive. The fiberglass body comes from Brazil, the chassis is tubular steel and the ride is raw and exhilarating. Expect to spend $40K+ to build one.

eSpyder: Resurrecting a Legend

Can’t find a road-capable electric car? How about building one from a kit?

By John Lane

Permit me to introduce to you the eSpyder.

Never heard of it? Well, considering there's only about six of them in the entire world, that's not surprising.

The eSpyder is a custom built zero emissions electric car. The technology and components for the eSpyder are readily available on the market today. Steve Heckeroth designed and built the propulsion systems used in the first 4 electric Spyders (1994). eSpyder #6 was built by Peter Ohler in 2003.

www.eSpyder.org is a non-profit association of individuals and businesses, technical and non-technical, who are dedicated to the development of the eSpyder. www.eSpyder.org provides information to interested buyers and an owners gallery of the eSpyders built to date. Buyers can choose from four Spyder builders, numerous propulsion system suppliers, and installers across the country.

The gas powered Spyder building business has grown steadily since 1983 when Chuck Beck built his first Beck Spyder. There are currently four companies that build Spyders and over 2,000 have been built worldwide. Spyders that are destined to be electric (a.k.a. eSpyders), are purchased complete, with finished interiors and exteriors, but without an engine, gas tank, or exhaust for around $20,000. An eSpyder uses a complete, new, rolling car (a "roller" or "glider") from one of the four Spyder builders. The frame is reinforced tubular steel and the body is fiberglass. A propulsion system of the buyer's choice is installed to create an eSpyder.

With its raw, tight ride, the Spyder is a throwback to the small German sports cars of the 1950s. The lightness and simplicity of the Spyder makes a very good electric car platform.


Rear engine-mounted Kostov DC electric motor in Peter Ohler’s eSpyder

"The Spyder sure can make a great EV!" says Otmar Ebenhoech of Café Electric but wonders who will pay $40,000 for one.

Arnuad Hubert agrees. In January of 2002, Hubert wrote on the Renewable Energy Policy Project website "If you want to market it to the hip crowd who likes flashy cars but wants to have a clean conscience, then build an electric roadster with good looks.

"Personally, I strongly believe there is a very sizeable market for this kind of car. If someone out there is ready to import a fiberglass chassis from Chamonix Cars in Brazil and load them with NiCd batteries and decent motors and controllers, it might just cost less than $25,000, look like a little asphalt monster, and compete with the likes of the Ford Thunderbird, the Audi TT, the Lexus SC 430 or the Honda S2000. Many roadster drivers don't take those cars faster than 75 mph anyway. If you show them a hot little EV that will dust almost any ICE roadster at the green light, that will allow them to drive in the carpool lane to piss off their co-workers at peak hours, and that's 30-70% cheaper than the models pre-mentioned, they'll buy it - provided you market it right.

"Now all I need is a venture capitalist."

Don't we all!

Special Edition, Inc. of Bremen, Indiana imports and distributes Spyders from the very Brazilian builder that Hubert mentions above, however, a complete, custom-built eSpyder currently costs approximately $42,900. We are not yet approaching the full production $25,000 price range that Hubert envisioned.

Chuck Beck, Henry Ford, and Walter Chrysler didn't have venture capitalists. They just started building a few custom built cars that people wanted - the first, followed by the second, followed by the third.

Who wants to keep this good idea alive and resurrect the legend?

Who wants eSpyder #7?

To learn more visit the eSpyder.org web site or contact John Lane.

Times Article Viewed: 73492
Published: 21-Oct-2005

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