I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I drove down to Missouri this week, but it wasn’t a slew of fun DIY projects interspersed by a series of speeches from conversion shop owners and parts vendors. Not being privy to all the technical details on EV conversions, I found myself more interested in the cars and the people who drove them. And these people looked like they were having a great time (mostly). The actual cars were were a lot of fun, too, and it was great to see so much enthusiasm for EVs.
I got to the convention just as the first speaker of the afternoon, a conversion shop owner, was starting his lecture. Clearly, I was all about the cars, but (nearly) everyone was inside listening, so I lurked in back and listened, too. Most of the hour was taken up with complaining about “too much complex technology” in modern cars (like, say, the door-is-ajar warning light or the automatic windows), which I suppose is why he likes electric – they’re super simple and so easy to maintain. But then he didn’t like (lightweight, strong) plastic, either. “That plastic bumper on your Ford won’t be fashionable or even functional in 10 years,” he said. I beg to differ – I drive a 1998 Ford Escort, plastic bumpers and all, and they look GREAT. (That is the first time I’ve heard anybody refer to anything on the ’98 Ford Escort as “GREAT.” – Ed.)
The second speaker had the same tone – clearly time to bail on speeches and go look at the electric cars. Having escaped the hangar, I noticed a woman with a tablet also hanging around outside and ignoring the speakers. It wasn’t until she put the tablet into one of the cars that I realized she was accompanying someone (most likely a husband) to the event. “You’re a good sport,” I told her. She looked at me, possibly gauging my level of crazy, and apparently decided I was normal enough. “He’s going to PAY,” she said. “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, we’re going SHOPPING.” (To her credit, she was smiling every time I saw her inside.)
Between speeches and during the evening, most people were willing to talk, and let me say again how fun and enthusiastic they were. There was one that stood out in particular, the driver of a little red BMW Z3 convertible. Like most of the cars there, it was a DIY project. Its driver, Tim, had wanted an EV1 back in the day (which never went on sale) and then an EV RAV4 (which he also couldn’t get his hands on). Two strikes were enough for Tim – he built his own EV, and it looks fantastic. It took him about 600 hours of work over a year to get it running, and now it easily reaches 85mph, with throttle left over.
I walked away from the convention with new appreciation for the DIY crowd – enthusiasm is catching! It was a great time. Check out the gallery below (all photos taken by my father, Craig Michelsen) for pics of a turquoise Geo Metro, a red Dodge Daytona, a yellow Mini Cooper, a red Toyota Camry, a yellow Austin Healey Sprite, and the still-in-pieces 9-second electric Camaro. Maybe by the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to decide on your own DIY electric car conversion – I know I am.
Source: Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention 2011