Building Vehicles for No Petroleum Use – the US Electric Auto Association

Context of Transport Climate Action

For the past century, automotive transport has been powered by fossil fuels. Gasoline, diesel and compressed natural gas have powered all manner of cars, light trucks, heavy trucks and other power tools used throughout society.  By substituting electric motors and rechargeable batteries for the internal combustion engine (ICE) and its traditional fuel and exhaust systems, noteworthy reductions in emissions and efficiency improvements are immediately realized. The energy required to move the vehicle even one kilometer is significantly lower.  Battery technology has now improved to the point where many of the tools we employ in our daily lives can be powered without resorting to burning carbon-containing fuels.  Other benefits include massively reduced maintenance, improved reliability and total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Already there are more than 1 million electric vehicles worldwide but large automotive companies are still reluctant to make them as ICE gasoline/fossil fuel based products are more accepted, and easier to sell. Product offerings include full electric as well as hybrid vehicles, which still enhance performance and reduce emissions by burning less fuel.

The Electric Auto Association (EAA) is composed of chapters around the US where like-minded people can meet, and exchange experience and learning, instead working in isolation.  They help encourage each other to convert conventionally fuelled vehicles to run only on electric power.

Description

Used internal combustion engines have end-of-life challenges. EAA members have shown that converting cars, trucks, yard tractors, rototillers, lawn mowers, and snow blowers to use electric power is possible. This means no fuel spillage, no tune-ups / minimal use of lubricants, no exhaust gases and reduced operational expenses. Concurrently, technology improvements allow new start-up companies to emerge with successful products (such as Tesla Motors, Inc).

Historically, converting an electric vehicle was very labour intensive yet many hobbyists still felt inclined to take on such a project.  Today, luckily, for the same amount of money, consumers can go out and buy a new electric powered vehicle.  Considering the huge number of automobiles produced annually, the EAA conversions are insignificant but this is not the main point. They clearly demonstrated to the automotive industry that there was an interest in this market. The EAA movement has helped to finally convince big automakers worldwide that electrification of the transport sector is inevitable. This notion seems to have registered from the major automakers in 2015 as major auto manufacturers now have around two dozen market choices today.  EAA members can be seen as early adopters.

Implementation

The Electric Auto Association is composed of chapters around the US where people can share their enthusiasm, learning, best practices and exchanging approaches on the subject. The use of the Internet are powerful and effective methods to increase dissemination on the one hand, and all the necessary components for converting vehicles and tools to electric propulsion  can be purchased on-line.  Funding is done by the owner of the vehicle, typically, with projects spanning many months.  The end result is a usable electric vehicle for daily use on short-range trips.

Challenges often involve paying for components.  Many EAA members are able to make the required parts to construct a safe, road-worthy vehicle. Sometimes when there are particular difficulties, solutions can be found via the association by “neighboring” with a friend or expert about a new approach to be taken.  Regulations or authorities can be problematic but they are mostly for safety reasons and can be overcome even if they slow down the completion of the conversion.

As technology matures and improves, costs drop. Buyers can now choose from finished products in showrooms and do not need to rely on conversions as the only option.  Some commercial offerings are also being harvested with rebuilt electric vehicles being transplanted into older car bodies, instead of simply trashing them.

Benefits

Skills learned or refined during the conversion of a vehicle can be used for employment.  However, since the field is so new, not many jobs exist in this area yet but this may change in the future.

If one considers that every gallon of gasoline not burned keeps 19 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, EAA members have driven over 10 million electric miles since we starting keeping records. As Tesla accumulates 1 million miles each day with their pure battery electric vehicles on the road, the tons of carbon dioxide avoided by the actions of the members of EAA are still noteworthy.

However the organization is at a crossroads.  While members continue to do conversions, and rebuilding wrecked EVs – the mainstream consumer in the US now has a growing choice of electric vehicles to purchase from the auto dealers.

Benefits include:

  • reduced air pollution,
  • overall fuel savings,
  • possible employment generated

Potential for scaling up

While drilling for oil in a residential neighborhood is not legal – it is okay to erect photovoltaic arrays (solar panels) on one’s roof.  By combining the simplicity of electric vehicles with home-grown off-grid energy (stored in the battery of the vehicle) near energy self-sufficiency is achievable.  About half of EAA members driving electric cars use rooftop solar to help offset monthly energy costs, examples to power utilities that still remain attached centralized power generation.  Public policy needs to be shaped to encourage more electric transportation and distributed generation throughout the country.  It is possible that electric vehicles will deeply disrupt the auto industry, as inexpensive solar technology will ultimately disrupt the utilities and grid distribution.

Consumer incentives like rebates, plus a carbon tax would be most equitable to help promote these new technologies.

Selected references

http://electricauto.org

http://evalbum.com

 

PROJECT INFORMATION

Location:

Global

Start:

1967

Finish:

On-going

Tags:

Global, Mitigation, Freight, Passenger Transport, Cycling, Car, Trucks, Lorries, Technology, Policy, Awareness

Organizer/s:

Electric Auto Association, http://www.electricauto.org

Contact/s:

Ron Freund, chairman@electricauto.org

“One of the great pleasures of driving an electric vehicle is not having to waste time refueling at the local filling station. Waking up at home with a fully charged battery is a time saving convenience.” Jerry Pohorsky, EAA member and EV driver.