Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Well I'm Committed Now!

I've been thinking about doing an electric car conversion for about a year. My solar power system at home has got me thinking about the impact of energy generation and consumption. I found a half-converted car here in San Luis Obispo, but the owner finally decided to complete the project rather than sell it to me to finish.

I then started looking at Craigslist, car web sites and eBay for possible vehicles to do the project on. I focused in on the Porsche 914 as there are whole-conversion kits available, along with many people who have done the conversion before me and blogged every step of the way. I'm up for an adventure, but I want to make sure it's possible before I start!

I spotted a potential car on eBay near the end of September 2009. It was located about 3 hours away (close enough), silver (best color), working well as-is (drive it home, work on restoration issues before kicking off the conversion) and is a 1973 model with the improved transmission (have to keep that to bolt the electric motor onto). I contacted the owner and it appeared to be a great conversion project car. In the end I won the eBay auction, for $4550, plus $375 in tax later to the Great State of California.

The car was just as advertised, but as it is 36 years old, has several restoration issues that I need to fix: the horn, high beams, windshield wipers, blinker light, odometer, rear-view mirror, side-view mirrors, wonky shift linkage, several paint chips and rust spots, and a few rubber gasket issues. In the end, I made up a project spreadsheet with 53 electric conversion sub-tasks and 78 restoration sub-tasks. This will allow me to track time and money spent on each sub-task so I know how crazy this idea was when everything's complete!

I brought the car home on October 2, and the first thing I did was secure the radio in the dashboard - nothing like a bouncy radio and a rat's nest of wires. I've started my first foray into body repair by working on a couple of easy paint chips and rust spots. I hope to refine my technique on the more challenging spots. Luckily there is no body damage and only a few rust spots that have penetrated the metal, needing deeper intervention.

I plan to work on the restoration tasks first, which will get me through the end of 2009. Then when 2010 rolls in, I'll start on the electric conversion. There's a federal tax credit for electric conversions that gives a credit of 10% to a maximum of $4,000, so I want to spend all of those dollars in a single tax year. The credit expires on December 31, 2011 so I have another year in case things go horribly wrong.