EVCCON 2011: Electric Opel GT

It’s not easy to make a 1973 Opel GT sexier than it already is – but ripping out the engine to install an electric motor is a pretty good start, and that’s exactly what Texans Charlie and Tamara did!  The married couple bought the Opel three years ago, and have been working to make the 70’s coupe into a forward-looking EV ever since.

Neither Charlie or Tamera had any experience working on cars before starting on the Opel.  Charlie is a web designer.  Tamera is a saleswoman.  They had internet access, though, and a solid foundation in Google-fu means a lack of know-how isn’t that problematic.  They saw an electric car conversion video on Youtube, looked out the window at their project Opel, and their dream project was born.  They researched their options, bought the motor, and then turned back to Google and Youtube for tutorials walking them through each step of the process.  “We didn’t want to go into debt,” Tamera explained. “We probably could have done it in six months if we’d had all the money available right away.”

The electrified Opel features NetGain’s Warp9 electric motor, which now lives where the gas engine did.  “One of the hardest parts was getting the old engine out,” Tamera says.  Powering the motor is a 48 li-ion cell battery pack mounted to a custom rolling shelf behind the cabin (replacing the gas tank, below).  “The Opel didn’t have a trunk to begin with, loss of storage space wasn’t really an issue.”  Rewiring the 150v electrical system was another difficult part of the process – as the car was (completely!) stripped early in the conversion, the whole “which wire goes where” got to be a considerable obstacle.  Hooking up the turn signals, the couple explains, was a frustrating experience in trial and error.

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The entire project is a DIY labor-of-love (even the paint job is custom and was done at home!), and the only part of the car the couple didn’t do themselves was re-upholster the interior.

The finished Opel is now a daily driver, and the pair haven’t changed their driving habits at all since giving up gasoline.  They still drive on the highways, keeping below the car’s top speed of “somewhere above 75 mph”, and haven’t run into any range issues.  “The controller is programmed to start shutting things off when the batteries get low,” she explained, “and that’s never happened.”

The Opel charges in the couple’s garage overnight, using a standard 110v outlet – and (I think) the most surprising part of the project was that neither Charlie nor Tamera thinks the project was particularly extraordinary or special!  “We just wanted to show people that it could be done. That anyone can do it.”

People who do awesome things are always saying stuff like that, aren’t they?  Great work, guys!

Source:  EVCCON 2011.

 

Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.