11.22.2008

Fun with Evan - The Electra Van

I did a few hours of tech support at the house of my son's preschool teacher last night and ended up having a really interesting and fun time with her, her husband and their daughter. They are engaging and interesting folks and I was happy to help them sort out some of their computer issues.

But what was really cool and fun is that they are into alternative energy, have solar panels installed on their house and the husband, Joe, has constructed an electric van from a conversion package. It is based on what I've always known as a Toyota Halfloaf minivan though his van's body was originally from Subaru.

His van looks exactly like the picture above except it is red where this one is blue. While a virus scanner was running (and running and running and running), he offered to take me out for a ride in it and then gave me a chance to drive it back! It isn't super quick but it gets up to speed in pretty short order and reaches top speed and can easily keep up with surface traffic. Unlike other manual transmissions, you do not downshift this van, you put it in neutral and push the non-powered brakes, sometimes very hard to get it to come to a stop. But part of its charm is its simplicity, of construction and operation.

He researched electric vehicles for two years with a certain set of criteria that he had trouble meeting until he came across the Electravan. One, it needed to be able to carry five people. Two, it had to be able to go 50 mph. Three, it had to be cute as a button (no, not really but it really is a cute little van). Range was less important as his daily commute is under five miles each way but he said it can easily go 20 miles without problems and other owners have been able to push theirs much, much further. The key is keeping speed steady to keep the draw on the batteries steady to maximize distance, pretty hard to do in real world traffic situations.

He was able to pick up the shell and most of the running parts (it is a four speed manual) for $5000 and then able to complete the van for another $5000 which gives him a fully electric vehicle for the same price as a decent used car. It plugs into a standard 110 socket but can be switched to 220 with the flip of a switch.

He said that there is no such thing as a quick trip to the store because someone (and usually several someones) always want to find out more about it.

He put up an information page on a blogspot site at Electravan with more of the van's background, the process of putting it together and what it is capable of. And he has a second van in the process of becoming road worthy, if you're interested then definitely get in touch with him, he's got contact info at the bottom of the page. And let him know you heard about it here.

It was my first direct experience with electric vehicles and was definitely a fun one. I need to call Zero Motorcycles and schedule that demo ride too but I want to have someone there to shoot some video and take some pics too.
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