Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Visitor

Since I finished the car, I've had a number of people either visit me at my house, or who I've met up with.  Each visit has been a lot of fun and I've written about most.  Last week, a man from Tucson named Wes stopped by to see the car.  We'd been trying to schedule a time to meet for a couple months and our schedules just didn't quite work out.  But as it happened, we both had time the day before Thanksgiving.

Wes rolled up in Ford Ranger. He'd purchased the truck a few months back with the intent of converting it to an EV.  Who can blame him, it's a good choice.  Then he happened across the EV Z3 on the web and thought it was a great idea.  He's now reconsidering the Ranger in favor of a Z3.  The ranger has a lot of advantages over the Z3: more room for batteries, it can carry more weight, parts are likely cheaper and it has way more room to work with when locating and installing components.  But you have to admit, a Z3 is a tad sexier, and I can attest that its way more fun to drive. 

Wes and I stood around the car for an hour or so talking about different elements of the construction.  He had a lot of good questions and I could see his mind spinning as he was filing it all away.  We went out for a ride, and took it on the freeway near my house.  Of course the car did just fine, and Wes had an opportunity to see just how fun riding in an EV is.  We got back and I shot this picture of Wes next to the car.

I needed a bigger flash.  I don't know if Wes will sell the Ranger and pick up a Z3 to do the conversion, but I hope he does.  If he does, I hope he figures out better ways to solve some of the problems I encountered.  I offered to share anything I'd learned with him, but I think it would be fantastic if he builds one that puts mine to shame.  Leave a comment with some encouragement for Wes.  How great would it be to have two EV Z3s on the road in Arizona?!  Thanks for stopping by Wes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Leaf

Today was the first day I've seen a Nissan Leaf on the road.  I was cruising along in the EV Z3 when I saw it approach from the other direction.  I recognized it as a Leaf right away, but had second thoughts because I didn't think they'd be available for sale just yet.  I figured it must be a Versa, which is the same platform.

But it had that unmistakable trapezoidal door on the front bumper where the charging receptacles are hidden.  As it passed I looked back and it had new car plates on it.  Sure enough, it was a Leaf.  I thought how cools is that, two electric cars passing each other on the busy streets of Phoenix.  Of course the driver of the Leaf had no idea there was another electric car anywhere nearby. 

I've actually signed up to go test drive a Leaf on December 3rd.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I'm eager to see how they packaged the whole thing and how well it drives.  I'm sure it will be just fine.  I really do hope Nissan sells a bunch of these cars.  I really hope that every other manufacturer sells thousands of the EVs they're each planning for the future.  It's going to be fun to ask the salesman about the car.  I hope they have someone there who really knows what he or she is talking about and can give me real data on the car.  We shall see.  I have no intention of buying one at this time.  After all I already own an EV.

As I drove past the Leaf, I couldn't help think to compare the only two EVs in what was very likely a several mile radius.  The Leaf was designed from the ground up as an EV and was built by professionals.  It's likely to be relatively free of problems and will come with a sweet warranty.  It will travel around 100 miles per charge and has A/C. 

By comparison, the Z3 was stuck together by some hack in a garage.  It has no warranty, and can only go 60 miles on a charge.  Plus it currently has no A/C, and won't until that same hack gets off his butt and does something about it.  But I ask you.  Which one would you rather drive?  I knew unequivocally what my answer was as I drove by. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

An Interested Individual

Yesterday, as I was leaving the grocery store, a man walked up to me and asked if the Z3 was a conversion.  I told him it was, and he asked if it was a hybrid.  I said that no, it was an full electric car, to which he said "Really!?"

What initially caught his eye is that he has a Z3 that is also Helrot (bright red in German) and he noticed the Alternative Fuel plate.  He said his first thought was that it was a propane/gas dual fuel vehicle. There are quite a few of those here in AZ (mostly SUVs) due to a botched program sponsored by our state legislature which nearly bankrupted the state. But then he realized it probably wasn't, as there would be no room for a propane tank.  Once I told him it was electric, he started asking a lot of great questions. 

He asked if he could peek under the hood and I happily opened the car up.  He said that he'd had no idea BMW was making electric Z3s.  I explained that they weren't, I had made it.  He was surprised, as most people are and continued to ask more insightful questions.  Every time this happens I like to let that idea sort of sink in; the idea that it was built by just one guy.  I really want people to consider the possibility that they too could take on such a project. 

I explained how the motor was coupled to the original transmission, a little about the batteries, their capacity and their life expectancy, the cost of the conversion, how far I can drive it and how long it takes to charge.  It turns out that he worked in the aircraft industry, and he recognized and appreciated some of the safety designs that I'd incorporated into the car. 

When we parted ways, we were both smiling, having enjoyed such a great chance encounter.  I understand why a lot of people that convert cars put stickers and labels on the car proclaiming that it's an electric car.  It's great to have people ask about it.  I love it when people ask about it!  But all those stickers and banners aren't for me.  I like the clean look of the unadulterated car.  I think as more people hear the term "EV" the custom license plate on the car will get a bit more attention.  And to that gentleman that stopped me in the parking lot, thanks for asking about the car.  I really enjoyed chatting with you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Car Show Number 2

Today was the second car show in as many days.  Unfortunately, the heat has decided to hang around a bit long here in Phoenix, so while the rest of the country is enjoying the crisp fall weather, it was 92° F and sunny.  Too sunny, if you ask me. 

Any way, one of our local power companies, SRP, was putting on what they call the "Party for the Planet" event.  Apparently this is a yearly event for SRP.  They have multiple booths with a wide variety of different groups showcasing their green technologies or methods.  One addition they thought would be good was to throw in a few electric cars, so they asked me if would be willing to bring the EV Z3 down.  It was a nice turn out of mostly SRP employees. 

As it turned out, there were three EVs present.  Take a look:

Up front, you can see a Citicar owned by one of the EAA local members named Bruce.  Behind that is a Ford Probe owned by SRP employee Abel.  Abel told me that the car had originally been owned by SRP and used for electric racing.  They sold it away, and he ended up getting some time later from the second owner.  It's an AC drive system using Optima yellow top lead acid cells.  Eventually Abel wants to drop some lithium cells in it.  Behind his car, just peeking around the corner is the little Z3. 

Quite a few people stopped by to take a look at it and ask questions. 

It was the usual battery of questions, which is just fine.  A few people had some insightful questions which is always fun to come across.  The nice thing about this show is that there were way more pretty girls stopping by telling me how cute the car was.  One girl took some pictures and asked lots of questions that she then forwarded off to her boyfriend who is a BMW enthusiast.  I have to tell you, I wonder how BMW enthusiasts would react to this car.  I'm not sure if they'd find it really cool, or want to stone me on the spot for perpetrating such sacrilege. She encouraged me to take the car to a dealership thinking that BMW corporate would be very interested in hearing about the car.  Perhaps they would.  My thought is that it would largely be a waste of time.

At any rate, it was a great day showing off the car, opening peoples minds to the potential of converting a car themselves.  It was just too damned hot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Car Show Number 1

Just over a month ago, I was able to attend one of the monthly meetings of the Electric Automobile Association hosted by the Phoenix Chapter.  It was entertaining and I had the opportunity to meet a few interesting people.  One of the people I met was a gentleman named Jim who has been interested in converting a car for some time, and he asked me if I'd be willing to come show the car to him and some of his friends at work.  I told him that I'd be happy to do so.

Well, as luck would have it, the company he works for, General Dynamics, decided to put on a car show for it's employees.  He invited me to attend that instead, and I agreed, thinking it would be a great way to get the car seen and hopefully inspire a few people.  I think all the cars there were actually owned by employees, with one exception; mine.

It started off yesterday with a request to feature the Z3 and one other guy's car in a press release meant to garner some publicity for the event.  I consented and gave them a little information about the car.  Today, as I pulled up to the check in desk, they knew me right away.  I guess word had gotten around, and they all seemed genuinely grateful that I brought the car out.  They told me I was going to be parked along side all the "showcase" cars. 

I pulled around and parked next to a couple of Cobras, and a slew of 60 muscle cars.  I found the whole thing a bit incongruous.  Here are all these loud, big, beautiful muscle cars, and then there, in amongst them, almost lost, was my little Z3.  I began to wonder how much interest it would garner.

Well, it didn't take long to find out.  Before long there was a crowd gathering around the car and people asking the usual questions you'd expect.  "How far can you go?  How long to charge it?  Did you build it yourself? How long did it take you?"  Through most of the event there were at least 6 people gathered around smiling, and asking questions.  Everyone seemed to have the same opinion; they all thought it was cool. 

I confess, I'm not a big muscle car fan.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a green car snob.  I love nice powerful, well engineered cars, but I tend to prefer European models.  If I could afford it, I'd have an Aston Martin Vantage in one of my garage bays, and a Tesla right next to it.  But as the day went on, I noticed something interesting.  People stopped to look at the Cobras, the Cudas, the Camaros and the Vettes, but they didn't stay long.  Generally there was one or two people around any given car.  The little car, that seemed so out of place in the group, oddly enough was the one that drew and kept most of the attention. 

It was about 10 minutes after I arrived that I reached into my pocket to get my camera when I realized that I'd left it sitting on my kitchen table.  DOH!  I desperately wanted to take pictures of the event and of some of the people gathered around the car, but it wasn't to be. 

The good thing is that I have another chance tomorrow, at a different car show.  One of our local power companies, SRP, is putting on a festival called "Party for the Planet," and they've invited me.  I'll be taking the car there tomorrow, answering the same questions I did today, and hopefully remembering to take the camera so I can take a few pictures to share with you.