Electric Car

Douglas Holub

Copyright 2022 by Douglas Holub

Photo of Doug's airplane--Velocity N2980W.
Photo of his electric car by the author.

Here are two stories about some amusing encounters with "the powers that be":

I'm an electrical engineer. Just for fun and for educational purposes, I built an electric car back in the 90's. I bought a 1984 Ford Escort hatchback with a blown engine from a junk yard for $75. After removing the engine, exhaust system, gas tank, and cooling system, I installed a large electric traction motor, a motor controller, and lots of batteries. The project was a success. The car could travel about 40 miles on a charge, zoom 70 mph on the highway, and get rubber in first gear. It was the perfect commuter vehicle.

The battery charger was an integral part of the vehicle. It was connected to an extension cord wound around a spring loaded reel. Access to the extension cord was through that little door on the side of the car where the gas cap used to be. So, to charge the batteries, a person would open the gas cap door, pull out the extension cord, and plug it into a normal 120 volt outlet. It was a slow battery charger. It drew less than five amps, which is about as much as a coffee maker draws.

The twelve story office building where I worked was 7 miles from my home in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. The car could easily travel to work and back on a full charge. But the batteries last longer if they are kept charged up, so when I began driving my electric car to work, I would plug the charger into a wall outlet in the basement parking garage.

After a few weeks of driving my electric car to work and charging it in the parking garage, I found a note on my windshield which said, "Please call the building manager." Apparently, one of the maintenance guys had seen my car plugged into a wall outlet and reported it to the building manager. I must admit, when you see a car plugged into a wall outlet, you just imagine that megawatts of electricity are flowing into the car.

I called the building manager when I got up to my office. She informed me that, for insurance reasons, I would not be allowed to charge my electric car in the parking garage. I explained that the electric consumption was minimal, but she was firm in her position that it would not be allowed.

That night I did some research and then wrote a letter to the building manager. I described how progressive companies all over America were beginning to install electric vehicle charging stations for their employees to use free of charge in order to encourage the use of electric vehicles. I offered to sign an insurance waiver to hold myself responsible for any damages to the building, and even offered to increase our $2000/month office rent to $2010/month in order to cover the extra cost of electricity.

A few days later I got a call from the building manager. She told me that I would be allowed to charge my electric car in the parking garage, and she continued, "You can thank my assistant for this. We were preparing an 'ozone alert' campaign for the building, where we encourage our tenants to car pool on days when the air polution forecast is severe. My assistant commented, 'Isn't it ironic that we're going to all this trouble to create an ozone alert campaign for the building, but we won't let Mr. Holub charge his electric car in the parking garage?'"

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