An EV's gotta do what an EV's gotta do.

When we decided to convert, I was driving a 1990 Geo Prizm hatchback. I love this car; even though it's really a Chevy Nova with a new badge, its styling is unique, and (in my opinion) quite attractive. I'm ashamed that I let the paint get so bad.

Mechanically, it's been everything you could ever ask for. The clutch master cylinder went bad; the water pump had to be replaced; no other major problems, and past 161,000 miles and 14 years. Go, Penny! And this with me running it on practically no oil at least twice.

We would have converted it, but it got rear-ended. Since then it was never the same; it leaked into the trunk, the suspension made weird noises, it stalled at idle if the A/C was on, and I really didn't know if I could trust the frame. I'd still like to convert it, but I don't have that kind of mechanical expertise (or time). I'll probably donate it.

Before Nathan left for Reno, we wanted to iron out as many details as possible. We figured talking face-to-face was better for that kind of thing than talking over the phone. My wife (Eri) and I decided that we needed the EV to do everything my current car did.

Note, that's not everything it could do, just the things it did. We made a list, approximately in order of importance:

  • commute to work & back: 26 miles round trip, 5 times a week
  • take three kids grocery shopping: 5 miles round trip, every weekend
  • stay within safety ratings (gross weight, etc)
  • accelerate from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds or less
  • drive on the expressway: 70 MPH or better
  • appealing (styling, interior, etc)
  • carry a pinball machine
My wife informs me that the Prizm didn't really carry a pinball machine. I think it could.

Obviously, "appealing" is subjective, so I supplied Nathan with some examples: the new Mazda Protege 5, the VW 4-door Golf TDI, the Suzuki Outback or Impreza wagon, and the Honda Civic wagon. We quickly recognized that I like small wagons. (Brilliant, Holmes!) Nathan also realized that I like the little wing over the rear window; but it's not really necessary, just neat.

We also determined that I'd take just about any 4-door hatchback. With three kids, including carseats, I really didn't want to struggle with a 2-door car. Carrying groceries for a family of 5 can be done in a sedan's trunk, but it's easier in a hatchback.

Next we did some research and made a budget. The acceleration I wanted would require at least a 500 amp controller and a big motor. (No starter-motor or aircraft generator car here!) To reach our top speed, we'd need at least 120 volts of battery. To stay within safety specs, we'd need to modify the suspension, and to make it more appealing we'd probably need to paint it. We'd try to cut costs with used or refurbished parts. Our rough estimate came out like this:

  • Donor car with blown engine: $1000
  • Motor, Advanced DC 9": $1000
  • Controller, Curtis 1231-C: $700
  • Batteries, 12 Optima YT: $900
  • Acessories and instruments: $2000
  • Fabrication and materials: $400
  • Suspension mods: $1000
  • Great paint job: $1000
  • Total: $8000

We figured we'd probably need some slack, too, so I asked my wife for an extra thousand. That brought our total to $9000. With all the info in hand, Nathan moved to Reno. We figured he'd need about two months to settle in, and then he could get started on the car.