Thursday, March 25, 2010

CMU Wants to Put You in an Electric Car

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are calling on Mechanics, students and community members to take a look at their electric car Friday in an effort to find a few people interested in converting their cars from gas to electric. The ChargeCar Project’s electric vehicle program has a converted 2006 Scion xB that will be on display from 4-6pm in the Planetary Robotics Center high bay on the first floor of the Gates and Hillman centers, 4902 Forbes Ave. The group also has a commercially available RAV4-EV all-electric car tat it will roll out for the event. CMU Associate Professor of Robotics Illah Nourbakhsh says they have also just purchased a Honda Civic that they will begin converting soon. The goal of ChargeCar is to encourage Pittsburghers to convert their own cars to all electric. To do so, Nourbakhsh and his team have created a “recipe” for changing a gas powered car to an all electric car that he says any mechanic can follow. Nourbakhsh says they can provide the needed parts to the mechanics for the process that takes about 5 days. He says it is estimated that a conversion will cost $5,000-$6,000. Nourbakhsh says they are hoping to find ways to lower that cost through foundation grants, state and federal tax rebates and company sponsorships. “If you don’t mind driving around with a PPG sticker on your car you might be able to get back $1,000,” says Nourbakhsh. The group has already landed a grant to pay mechanics for their time as they get the needed training. Nourbakhsh says 5 years ago none of this would have been possible. He says better batteries have made it technologically possible and government officials are more willing to talk about rebates and draw up new guidelines for electric cars to pass inspection. ChargeCar says it wants to make each car customized to the user. If your daily commute is 12 miles round trip then they will put in a battery that gives you 20 miles on a charge, if your drive is 20 miles then a 30-mile battery will be used. Nourbakhsh says he gets 100 miles on a $2.00 charge and the batteries they use charge using the standard 120v outlet that is already in your garage. Nourbakhsh says you can do his with any car but it works best with lightweight cars with manual transmissions. He says there are plenty of old Civics and Corollas on the market that fit the bill.

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