Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, business partners Lee Gasper-Galvin and Peter Iaquinta are convinced that a market exists for gasoline-to-electric conversion vehicles if they can manage to buy used, gas-powered cars, convert them to all-electric vehicles and sell them for less than $25,000 each.
That’s easier said than done given that the lithium batteries and battery management system typically used in conversions cost $10,300. Nonetheless, they have staked their futures on a fledgling company, Galvanacar, LLC, that hopes to capitalize on the opportunity.
To keep their prices low and improve their chances of success, the two have taken to performing the conversions themselves. This is no small feat, with each conversion requiring a great deal of engineering effort and 5-10 days to complete.
The process begins with the removal of the gas tank, engine, and exhaust system. Once removed, an electric motor, batteries, and controls are installed. A precision-made adaptor plate matches the electric motor with the transmission. The result is a low maintenance, green vehicle that achieves freeway speeds and charges via an ordinary 120V electrical outlet.
Gasper-Galvin, who earned a masters degree in chemical engineering from Cornell and a PhD from University of Iowa, currently drives the company’s first conversion, a 1999 Saturn SL. Although she acknowledges the primary disadvantage associated with an all-electric vehicle is its lack of range –about 70 miles between charges — she believes that their fuel efficiency and low maintenance requirements will help them continue to gain favor with buyers.
Galvancar’s next conversion will be a ’97 Ford Ranger pickup. They plan to use $2,000 worth of lead-acid batteries (instead of lithium ones) to keep costs as low as possible. Gasper-Galvin thinks an electric-powered pickup would be a great asset for a general contractor who often takes multiple short-range trips in a single day.
Gasper-Galvin hopes the electric vehicle conversions will attract EV enthusiasts seeking reliable second vehicles that are not dependent on imported oil or subject to rising gas prices.