Latest Teenage Craze: Converting Gas Cars to Electric


First planking. Then the Harlem Shake. And now today’s teenagers are engaged in a new high-tech craze that’s sweeping the country: converting cars to run on electricity and batteries.

Many of the latest EV building projects operate in high school engineering programs. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, students in the electric car program at Kennedy High School hosted an electric car race last Saturday. Students from four states designed, built and drove small battery-powered vehicles to see who could complete the most laps in an hour.

In a program at Southwest High School in San Antonio, Tex., fourteen students built their own electric vehicles from scratch. “They rolled up their sleeves,” said teacher Oscar Castaneda. “They engineered and they designed.” Each car cost about $3,000 and took a year to complete. In April, the school’s engineering team came in second place in a national home-brew EV competition—completing 116 laps around a local racetrack, even if visibility was severely limited through the blurry Mylar windshield.

Two high school students in Tiverton, R.I., managed to build their own electric car—using a chassis made from PVC pipes. “These types of projects really are preparing this and the next generation of thinkers and innovators to change the world and make it a better place,” said Edwin Fernandez, the Technology Education Teacher at Tiverton High School. The small EV cost about $1,000 to make, and reaches a top speed of about 18 miles per hour.

The Electric Vehicle Club at Seymour High School in Connecticut’s lower Naugatuck Valley launched their EV project with computer design and prototyping on a three-dimensional printer. In the end, the team successfully drove 28 uneventful miles around a track in a local competition. They now plan to adjust gear ratios, and calibrate other aspects of the vehicle to participate in more races in the fall.

In case you think these programs are a matter of kids getting a ton of help from adult advisors, consider the wave of teenagers working solo to convert gas cars into electric vehicles.

For example, Kirk Smith, a senior at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, spotted a YouTube video explaining how to turn a conventional car into an EV. Smith found a defunct Honda CRX with nearly 200,000 miles that he purchased for $600. He started by “taking everything out that you don’t need—the engine, the radiator, the exhaust manifold, the whole exhaust line,” Smith said. After a year of creative problem solving, he recently took the electric Honda on its first trip to school. Now, he hopes to increase the output to reach a speed of 35 miles per hour.

That won’t be any problem for Juan Ehringeras, a Pennsylvania high school student, who amped up a Honda S2000 with a homemade battery pack, control unit and two electric motors—enough to deliver a dazzling 700 horsepower. Ka-pow. He said the car still needs work to fix vibrations in the rear axle and an unreliable charging system. The biggest concern, at least for local drivers, is the combination of home-rigged engineering and 700 horsepower—piloted by a teenager behind the wheel.

Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.



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One comment on “Latest Teenage Craze: Converting Gas Cars to Electric

Conversion of EVs by high schools have been taking place for more than 20 years. There has been many high school competitions; the EV Challenge is one of the oldest competitions. We have helped many schools during the past 25 years.

The schools in Iowa are competing in electrathon racing. It use a one hp motor (24V). These are not conversions, but ground up small EVs where the single occupant almost lies on his back for 1 hr.

EVs are a great opportunity to bring together students with head knowledge and hands on skills. They learn respect for each other and how to troubleshoot. For more information, contact Electric Vehicles of America, Inc. in NH.

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