Rural Missouri - May 2012 - (Page 28)
High school senior Don Gibson decided to do something to combat the high price of gas. He converted this 1994 Geo Metro to run on electricity. He ﬁgures it costs him about 25 cents to charge the car’s batteries for a 20-mile drive, the equivalent of about 200 mpg.
The kid with the electric car
riving is a right of passage for teens. But when gas hovers near $4 a gallon, that milestone loses its luster. While others parked their cars or limited their trips until the price went down, Don Gibson of Grant City started work on converting a 1994 Geo Metro to run on electricity. “I went ahead and grabbed an electric motor that was available on eBay for $450,” says Don, a senior at Worth County R-III High School. “It was a fork lift motor. Someone had bought it and rebuilt it.” Don had read online about a Wisconsin man who completed a similar conversion, and that inspired him to give it a try. Using money he made ﬁxing computers, he bought a wellused Geo and pulled the motor, along with the exhaust system and gas tank. The electric motor was a perfect ﬁt. But getting a coupler made to connect it to the car’s 5-speed transmission was a challenge in this region where cows outnumber people 10 to 1. “Trying to ﬁnd a machine shop around here is hard,” Don says. “We ended up trying to fashion a number of parts by hand, with hand tools.” Eventually, persistence paid off and a shop was found that fabricated the essential piece. “One thing about Don, when he starts talking about something, there is a high probability he will do it,” says his dad, Reid, publisher of the Grant City Times-Tribune. “I tell people, ‘My son is studying to be a Japanese industrialist. He’s start-
by Jim McCarty firstname.lastname@example.org
Don Gibson’s electric vehicle beats the price at the pumps
a controller designed for electric ing at the bottom and • working his way up.’” Grant City vehicles. “I’m not new to electronics,” says Don, who also It took them three ﬂies radio-controlled airyears, but in the summer planes. “I actually made my of 2011, the father and son ﬁrst circuits back when worked together to bring I was ﬁve or six. I’ve the project to fruition. always had a fascination With a borrowed hoist, the with electronics.” 200-pound forklift motor The huge motor caused slipped into place like it was some components to burn out. But made for the car. Don’s modiﬁcations ﬁnally got everyBut the project wasn’t as simple thing in sync. as swapping motors. At the heart of From that point, his efforts went an electric vehicle is a controller, a into making the car street legal again. box ﬁlled with electronics that goes A mechanic at the local repair shop between the accelerator pedal, the bathad his doubts, but he eventually teries and the motor. afﬁxed the inspection sticker and the Using a controller designed for a car was licensed. golf cart, along with six lead-acid car Don and Reid painted the Geo a batteries, Don took it on the ﬁrst powbright blue, and dubbed it “The Blue ered trip down the driveway and back Zeus.” One ﬁnal touch was a bumper in July 2011. “It didn’t go fast, but sticker that reads, “I laugh when you hey, it ran,” Reid says. buy gas.” With just 72 volts trying to turn an “The ﬁrst day I drove it to school 18-horsepower motor, it was obvious at 7 in the morning, that was a good the car wasn’t going to go fast enough day,” recalls Don, who is learning to keep up with trafﬁc. Don did more welding at the vo-tech school in research and settled on a conﬁguraMaryville. “We had been driving it to tion that instead would use 12 battertown and back a few times, but that ies for 144 volts. was the ﬁrst time I drove it to school. “If you want to go faster, you have It’s a worthy little beast.” to boost the voltage up,” says the With all of its improvements, 18-year-old. “Originally, my plan was The Blue Zeus cruises at a top speed to keep the voltage at 72 because it’s around 62 mph. It won’t do that long, safer. But it turned out that only got however. Don says about 15 minutes me going about 35 mph.” at top speed will drain the batteries. He also bought the parts to build
A six-hour charge gives him just enough juice for a round-trip journey from home to school, around 16 miles. Normally, he tops off the charge at the newspaper ofﬁce on the courthouse square in Grant City. “It pulls about a kilowatt of electricity,” Don says. “Compared to the cost of gasoline, that’s nothing.” Charging the car takes only about 25 cents worth of electricity, he ﬁgures. While the original design of the car provided an estimated 42 mpg, it does much better on electricity. “We did a comparison, and this will do the equivalent of 200 mpg,” Reid says. The electric vehicle’s lead-acid batteries are the limiting factor in making The Blue Zeus practical transportation. The low-tech batteries are heavy and lose their power quickly. Lithium-ion batteries would lower the weight and could extend the range to 100-plus miles, but at a huge cost — more than $3,000. With the car almost perfected, Don is looking ahead to his next big project. He already has a wind-powered charging station in the works. When that’s functioning, he wants to start building a solar-powered vehicle. “It’s quite possible I will come up with some other harebrained idea, and it will get further along than my solar car,” he says, laughing. “My real passion is designing things that could help humanity. There’s so many things you could ﬁx just by changing how we use and produce energy.” You can contact Don at 660-5643603 or email@example.com.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2012
Rural Missouri - May 2012
Table of Contents
Missouri snapshots contest
Curbing copper theft
Out of the Way Eats
The mandolin man
Knight for hire
Hearth and Home
The kid with the electric car
Rural Missouri - May 2012
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