Want An Electric Vehicle? Wait Until Real Carmakers Build Them

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Chrysler PT Cruiser converted to electric car by EV Innovations, photo from buyer Barrett Lyon

Chrysler PT Cruiser converted to electric car by EV Innovations, photo from buyer Barrett Lyon

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Our mission here at GreenCarReports.com is to cover the greener end of automobiles, for both new-car buyers and enthusiasts. But unlike other sites, we rarely cover conversions to add plug-in capability to existing cars or hybrids.

Why? First, they're not available to mainstream car buyers and are very rarely crash-tested or warrantied. (Hymotion's kit to convert a Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid is a notable exception.)

Second, many of them are marginally engineered at best. Today's case in point: Barrett Lyon's $30,000 purchase of a Chrysler PT Cruiser converted to all-electric power by a company then known as EV Innovations.

One company, three names

That company was originally called Hybrid Technologies, and it has now renamed itself Li-Ion Motor Corporation--and filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. As he notes, EV Motors was featured on the Discovery Channel’s Modern Marvels program, so "it seemed legit."

The company sold Lyon an electric conversion of a Chrysler PT Cruiser using a lithium-ion battery pack. It tested that same design in 2007--unsuccessfully--as a New York City taxi. But its 40-mile range and inability to operate in cold weather, plus its documented unreliability, quickly doomed it as a taxi.

Lawnmower engine ?!?!?

We'll leave you to read Lyon's full tale of woe. Suffice it to say his converted Cruiser was late, arrived dead, couldn't charge from scratch on 110-Volt power, was badly engineered, and suffered a bizarre wheel bearing failure (unheard-of on a vehicle with less than 10,000 miles). Oh, and then EV Innovations asked him to stop using the car altogether until they re-engineered it.

Our favorite detail: The power steering was run by a Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engine. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

Not unexpectedly, Lyon took EV Innovations to court.  Read his post for more.

Just wait a year

But this is the stuff that gives electric vehicles a bad name. If you want an EV, we suggest you think long and hard about any third-party conversions, which can have all sorts of issues.

Instead, wait a year. This December, General Motors promises it will sell its 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle through selected Chevy dealers, starting in Southern California. Close on its heels will be the 2012 Nissan Leaf. And there will be more.

You have been warned.

 
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