September 27, 2012

The Electric Jalopy – It’s Nothing Special

Hi, I’m Ryan Kiefer, and the first thing I’d like you to know is that my 1980 VW Rabbit Convertible electric conversion will be a bit shit. Because of the budget to which I am limiting myself, the technology will be likewise limited – no regenerative braking, no power brakes or steering, no Li-ion batteries, no A/C, maybe even no heat.
Hell, right now, it hasn’t even got a top, just a frame for one.
A vintage, slightly rusty old Volkswagen, rudimentary in every way; you’ll spot a dozen like it at any event where electric enthusiasts gather to look up the skirt of each other’s car to catch a glance at the naughty bits.
Likewise, I am pretty much a nobody. I’m a technical writer (with creative aspirations) who writes dry owner’s manuals for a company you’ve probably heard of. I’ve not done anything more automotively complicated than changing the oil. I’m not the guy building assault robots in his basement.
So now that I’ve given you no good reason to read further, let me tell you what I think is going to be unique about my project and why you might feel inclined to back it. At the heart of my project is today’s “everyman.” I’m a guy who wants to go electric but cannot ever hope to afford a $40k Nissan Leaf or even a $30k Mitsubishi MiEV.
I have nothing but shameless ambition and the undaunted hope of the idiot who doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into yet. I’m willing to get my hands exceptionally dirty and learn as I go, and I think that should be enough to pull off this project.
The ultimate goal, however -- the higher purpose I believe I am serving – is the promotion the home-converted electric car. As I convert this beater VW and live with it for a year, I’m going to chronicle my experiences, and ultimately release a nasty tell-all book that covers the entire topic, including how I drove the topless VW (for which I paid $150 because it barely runs) 30 miles across town in a rain storm to get it home.
That’s just an example of the commitment I have to this project and to the idea that every man or woman who can get their hands on a drill and a set of cheap socket wrenches can turn off the TV, walk out to their garage, and build themselves their own low-cost EV so they don’t have to wait for Nissan Leafs with dead battery packs to hit Craigslist sometime around 2025.
Now, as a way of both gauging interest in this proposed book and to raise funds to actually perform the conversion, I’ve decided to launch a Kickstarter project. Because the rewards are all book-related, you can simply think of it as my way of pre-selling the book.
Now go, watch my cheesy video, have a laugh at my expense, then pitch in some money to help me get this thing going!

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