FROM ISSUE 1.09 | Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t – you’re right.” We can take it a step further. If you think the world is getting better or going to hell in a handbasket – you’re right, too.
Dave Hymers is our resident EV expert. He’s as passionate about renewable energy and clean motoring as you might be about forced induction or top fuel drag racing. He works in the solar industry in Tucson, collects rainwater for his home garden, and has an electric Toyota Hilux – which he built himself – in his garage.
He’s also very concerned with the impact of global demand for oil on people and planet alike. Like anyone passionate about something, he’s constantly reading and researching and, like the bumper sticker says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
It had been a while since we’d had an EV in the magazine, and I’d noticed Dave seeming particularly down about things. I reminded him that there is still more good in the world – more to be hopeful for – than there is bad, that we’ll never completely get rid of the baddies, and asked if he could help me with a solid EV owner interview that would enlighten and empower our readers.
Within ONE HOUR, Dave had tapped our buddy Tim Catellier, who reached out to Nabil Hanke, owner of EDM-EV.com – Electric Dream Machine EV – and got us the scoop. Just goes to show, if you think the world is going to hell, your energy is best spent on doing something you know is good in the world.
I gave Dave some question ideas, he came out of semi-retirement to get us this incredible conversation with a real EV gearhead. What you’re about to read might surprise you. You have more in common with EV owners than you might think!
[dh] Gearheads of all stripes read Gearbox Magazine. We’re working on connecting people to new automotive paradigms and areas of interest. In your view why is it important for non-ev enthusiasts to read this story?
It is my hope that through reading this article, a new perspective is given. The history of electric drive is curious in many respects – in short the reason for the poor acceptance has been that battery technology for over a century has been inadequate. But current technology exists and is available the the commoner to make electric cars possible.
The media and automakers want to spin a yarn that there is yet much more technology needed before EVs are viable. That’s simply not true. The drive components are incredibly simple – too simple to be believed. I hope to stress that there is no need to wait for yet more technology.
[dh] What are a few key points you would highlight to get people interested in electric driving?
Where to begin and where to end? We’ve all heard the talking points about emissions, economics, and politics, but if you care about driving, none of that matters. It’s about the experience of feeling the road through the car, dancing through curves. And in that effort, the cliche rumble of the engine and roar of the exhaust simply get in the way. With electric, you feel the subtle texture of the road and hear the breeze in trees. It’s an experience everyone should have. If you don’t believe me, try it and prove me otherwise.
[dh] Why do you think it is important that garage conversions, and by extension local conversion shops take off?
For decades the auto industry has lost touch with the essence of cars. The uptake of electric drive is the greatest opportunity for a renaissance in what makes cars great, but the established industry is in no position to lead the charge.
Cars are a funny thing – they are extensions of our identity. As much respect as I have for the Leaf, for example, it isn’t me. If I am really a Mustang fan – and an EV fan – an electric econobox doesn’t fit. But an electric Mustang with enough power to leave any bow tie in the dust would.
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[dh] Can you describe at what point you felt your interest in EVs met with the possibility of building a business?
When I saw how simple an EV was – and how terrified anyone was of doing one themselves. Lately I’ve seen a new direction in which we are headed. There are many people who would rather do it themselves with a little help, so we are developing a suite of parts and accessories to simplify the process for the average weekend warrior.
[dh] What are the top 3 reasons your customers give for wanting an EV conversion?
The big one they may not want to admit to at this point is prestige. They revel in knowing they are ahead of the curve. The big one they wear on their sleeve is ecological responsibility. It is a great feeling to no longer be burning unrecoverable resources just to commute to work. The real motivator, though, is breaking free from the system; No longer watching your paycheck disappear one gallon at a time, no longer being a pawn in an inescapable game where someone else wins at your expense. A lot of people phrase it that they just like the idea of being “different.”
[dh] The DIY aspect of conversions speaks to gearheads who turn their own wrenches in pursuit of performance. How does the current market play into that mentality and how do you recommend gearheads move more to position themselves to be in the forefront of that new frontier?
The market of conversion components has been redirecting itself to more performance conscious people. We measure and discuss our drivelines in kilowatts, rather than horsepower. The gearheads are already in a great position because after the clutch, everything still applies – gear ratios, brakes upgraded, suspension tweaks, weight distribution. It’s all relevant and more easily designed around with electrics. EV lingo can be a little daunting at first, kilowatts instead of horsepower, amp-hours or watt-hours instead of gallons. It’s only complicated if you try to make it complicated.
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[dh] Anyone watching the EV market grow is very interested in seeing a transition moment or winning formula, where do you think EVs need to be in terms of range, performance, and price before EV growth outpaces conventional vehicles?
That’s a good question, but its not so simple. People have tried to pin the tail on the donkey and say that $5/gal would be the tipping point, but Europe has seen that for many years and has yet to revolt and go all electric. The available technology is capable right now to build a viable car. And it’s kinda automatic that a conversion will have better performance than its prior gas engine. The change will happen only after enough friends of friends have driven or own an electric (hybrids not included).
What is lacking isn’t infrastructure, as some would scapegoat it. It’s confidence. Look at the classic technology adoption curve – it shows there is a small minority who tinker and innovate, then early adopters, then early majority – the part you’re asking about. In that scenario, what leads to the next stage is not more technology, but more experience. More experience in our case is butts in seats. After enough butts have been in enough seats, general confidence grows and broader acceptance grows, leading to more EVs on the road.
So what will the automotive world look like when electric cars outsell gas cars? Average range will probably be around 150 miles, possibly less, because people will finally realize that they don’t need that much range and would rather have leather interiors. The electrics will outperform gas cars in nearly every measurable way: acceleration, handling, passenger space, storage space, depreciation, styling, and operating cost.
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[dh] When we look beyond the headlines and the usual talking points, what is it about EV conversions that makes them so worthwhile, given that some are not interested in emissions or oil usage?
Like I said before, conversions offer that opportunity to reclaim the essence of motoring. New cars are so full of luxury and noise dampening that you become numbed to the experience. Some people identify with the freedom of doing something completely different from the norm. Some really like the idea of not being jerked around by the oil companies.
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We wrapped up the conversation (a good half of which has been trimmed from this preview) with Nabil saying thank you. “I’d like to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to share some of my perspective on the nascent electric industry,” he said. “I hope I wasn’t too heady, but to me, the implications are so profound that most haven’t begun to even try to comprehend where this will all lead. I’d love the opportunity to get more technical if the readership demands it.”
We’ll be working with Nabil to empower our readers with all kinds of knowledge and understanding of high performance EVs and the gearheads who build them.