The Dolphin: Super Aerodynamic Homebuilt Electric Car

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The practice of home-building electric vehicles is not uncommon amongst hardcore EV enthusiasts. Our own Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield has converted her own EVs before, and several members on the website Ecomodder have done the same, often using the economy driver's favourite, the Geo Metro, as a starting point.

Dave Cloud has done much the same, only he clearly wasn't that happy with his 1997 Metro's aerodynamics. To this end, Dave has created the Dolphin, and like its namesake the Dolphin's body is incredibly streamlined. There's certainly very little on the exterior giving clues to its humble origins.

The chassis aft of the driver has been constructed out of steel tubing. The car eventually tapers to a point and along with the flat undertray and narrow rear track offers very low drag.

Two Advanced DC 8" electric motors powering the two rear wheels replace the Geo's regular fuel-sipping gasoline engine and front-wheel drivetrain. Each motor is controlled and powered independently through a 72 Volt controller.  The batteries themselves comprise 60 Interstate Various, 12 volt, lead acid cells which each weigh 33 pounds.

As a result, the Dolphin is no lightweight, dwarfing the Geo it originates from at 3,200 pounds. Thanks to the low drag of that slippery shell though, it can reach 72 mph and range is as much as 200 miles. As a result of the high weight and single speed motor, acceleration isn't as impressive. 60mph comes up in 18 seconds, and range at lower speeds is compromised too - the Dolphin is definitely a highway cruiser, where Dave can make the most of its unique aerodynamics.

Possibly even more impressive than the performance is that it only took Dave a year and $3,000 to convert, making it a true budget EV. Of course, it's not a project that could be undertaken by anyone, and Dave has already done over 45 EV conversions - he could probably churn out Dolphins in his sleep!

It's unlikely we'll see mass-produced EVs like this for a very long time with market tastes being so conservative (Volkswagen's 261mpg XL1 is the closest we'll see in the near future) but luckily there will always be a small group of enthusiasts out there willing to do what the manufacturers won't - and long may it continue.

[EValbum via Ecomodder]

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Comments (5)
  1. Is that electrical tape I see holding the rear end together?

  2. Work on a prototype is always ongoing!
    This car is probably the most aerodynamic street legal car I know of.
    Dave Cloud drove it 200 miles on used lead acid batteries. 'Nuf said.

  3. Interesting but missing important details. 60 batteries @ 33lbs/ea = 1980 lbs? Running 72VDC = 10 strings of batteries in parallel. How does he keep them all balanced? How long has he tested the pack? Does it last? How much does his vehicle weigh at curb?
    My experience comes with 25 years at GM & 5 yrs on EV1, 6 yrs Tier 1 suppliers, and 8 yrs with my own company to build a Superior Low Speed Vehicle - one that is roadworthy; at 1000's of dollars less than our competition and far closer to a real car than a golf cart on steroids.
    I have done conversions but at an OEM level of safety and reliability. Did 1997 Cavalier, wrote book that will give you an OEM level of safety and reliability that I will share.
    Good job Dave, but let's see more.

  4. The Dolphin weighs about 3200 pounds, in total. I don't know about the electrical details. Flooded lead acid never lasts very long, right? Dave used batteries he had, and most/all of them were used.
    As the EV1 and the Dolphin show, after you have a super efficient drivetrain, having low aerodynamic drag is critical to long range and low energy consumption. Weight is not as important, since you can regain some of the "investment" by coasting, or with regenerative braking. (Actually, the Dolphin uses DC motors and does not have regen.) Aero losses on the other hand, are total.
    So, I hope that a Dolphin with a larger capacity lithium pack and front wheel drive can be built (I am currently making a 3D SketchUp model of the Dolphin), and it could get down to around 100Wh/mile?

  5. No one has mentioned the Solar Wind.

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