Drivers turn to electricity

April 23, 2008 4:06:13 AM PDT
If you feel trapped by the high cost of gasoline, you are not alone. But instead complaining about the rising costs, some drivers are taking action. The solution they are turning to may not be right for everyone, but it certainly works for a growing number of frustrated commuters.

We're talking about converting car to run solely on electricity. It's an idea gaining ground right here in oil rich Houston.

It's not unusual to see someone working on a vehicle in their garage, but Steve Kobb may be the last person you'd expect.

"I am not an engineer," says Kobb.

In fact, Kobb is a computer expert for the oil industry. His project may surprise you too. The goal is to convert this 2002 Chevy S-10 pick up truck to run completely off of electricity.

Kobb says, "I took a couple of auto mechanics courses and I am getting into it, and it is a lot of fun, very interesting."

The gas powered engine is gone, replaced by this electric motor. The gas pump and mufflers are gone as well to make room for the batteries needed to supply power.

Kobb says, " I am going to have 26 batteries in the back, each one weighs 63 pounds."

There is an electric conversion kit for the S-10. When Kobb is finished he will have $20,000 into the project, but he will never need gasoline again.

"As the price of gas goes up and up, people feel trapped about it, and they feel like there is nothing they can do, but they can do something. This is a project they can take on," said Kobb.

While that sounds great, Kobb admits it is not an easy undertaking.

"I have been working on this on the weekends since the end of July," Kobb said.

He is getting the help of a few friends too. Bill Swann is a member of the Houston Electric Auto Association.

"For those that are daunted by the conversion, there are those who are more technically savvy, but it's not a big deal to do a conversion," said Swann.

Swann adds there are resources available to anyone interested in a conversion. The biggest question he gets, 'How much does it cost to drive one?'

"It's about 3.2 cents a mile. If you do the math on your car, depending on if it is a heavy car or a light car, you are paying anywhere from 10 cents a mile to 20 cents a mile, maybe 30 cents per mile," said Swann.

Before deciding to take on a project like this remember, cars and trucks converted to electricity have a range of about 40 miles and top speed of around 60 miles an hour, but if you live near your job, it may be something to explore.

The Houston Electric Auto Association has a web site set up with tips and links for those considering a conversion. You can find those links on our Consumer Blog.

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