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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Comments (10)
  1. Aw man...I hate to say I told him so. A few years back Mr. Lyon was razzing a Tesla customer about how the Tesla was delayed and was boasting about his electric PT Cruiser that was being built. The customer emailed me about it and I warned the guy to watch out for Hybrid Technologies. Oh well.

  2. Yeah, his initial motivation was to avoid paying for a Tesla. Said he wanted something more "practical". Well there ain't anything practical about a DOA car.
    I have no sympathy for illogical Tesla haters.

  3. I check the SEC but couldn't find their filing: http://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/webusers.htm
    If they do manage to file for an IPO, I'd complain to the SEC - but I doubt they will at this time, given the bad press they'll be getting for their shoddy workmanship.

  4. Actually, my initial motivation was not to avoid paying for a Tesla. I am totally in love with the Tesla.
    I'm a low-key person and having a really awesome sports car was not what I was looking for.
    My wife at the time was driving a PT that we bought from my late grandmother, it is a gutless car which has no sex appeal whatsoever, but it worked for us. It reminded me of my grandmother and is also a car I could drive into San Francisco and not really worry about theft or vandalism.
    Anyway, my real intention was to commute without carbon emissions and I needed the car to perform to its stated specifications, which it fell very short. Regardless of falling short, the car was plagued with problems which is why it is currently not drivable.
    Anyway, I love the concept of what it would have been, and there are a lot of fantastic electric car companies such as Tesla. I wrote the blog to warn people about EV Innovations.

  5. Barret, thanks for clarifying. I was under the wrong impression that you simply wanted to prove Tesla buyers wrong.
    As for warning people, consider it "mission accomplished": every blog on EV has carried your story. I hope it will make it impossible for them to carry on with their scam.

  6. @John R,
    EV Innovation is on the NASDAQ OTC (over the counter board) which is the home of all penny stocks. This board is not regulated like the full NASDAQ, so it's very scammer-friendly.
    See: http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/snapshot/snapshot.asp?ric=EVII.OB

  7. I made contact with what was then Hybrid Technologies at the same time as Mr Lyons. I spoke to the same people. They seemed to be sincerely trying to get real EVs on the market. I did not speak to the owners.
    I am an EV owner (four years, now) and I know how long it takes to understand the difference between regular cars and EVs. It is not as simple as changing engines. For example a gasoline car runs the same until it runs out of gas. An EV runs fine for the first half of a charge, but then it is not as strong and further, most battery types can be damaged before they run down completely.
    One of the reasons it is taking so long to bring the EV to the market is the need to make EVs resistant to the abuse of those who don't understand them. Is that a problem in this case? I just do not know.
    But waiting for a well tested factory produced EV is probably good advice for most people.

  8. Electric Vehicle-sounds interesting!Ne ways i would like to know how it helps and does it cause any harmful effects to any one ?

  9. buy r4 card
    There are literally books written that would answer your question. This site, "GreenCarReports.com, has tons of information. If you "google" "Electric Cars" or "EVs", you will get tons of information.
    My reason for owning an EV is that it is quiet and it DOESN'T USE GASOLINE. It is about as safe as a gasoline car to drive and the hazards of electricity are a little different but not greater than those of gasoline. EVs are not new (as old or older than gasoline cars), but are not yet in common use. When gasoline is not easily available, they may become necessary.
    This thread is all about the "birth pains" of the new reintroduction of electric cars to the public.

  10. It is gratifying to get some first hand after sales experiences being shared by folks who had bought into the electric conversion hype. There is so much information available on the internet on this subject, with some charlatans claiming their method will only cost a couple of hundred dollars (this is now with scrounging dead deep cycle batteries from golf carts and refurbing them..) A realistic DIY conversion will cost around $4000 and give you about a 50 mile range, seems to be the general consensus out there. What do you guys think? Personally I'd love a Tesla, without a doubt, and will leave the DIY and aftermarket conversions to the tinkerers....

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