Retrofit my ride!

Photo: Mleku

The car of the future may be closer than you think.

What will be our car of the future? Will we have hydrogen revolution vehicles using fuel cells? Will our streets be flooded with cutesy-named aerodynamic pods like the Twike, Obvio or Xebras? Will we be feeding scraps and garbage into our own version of Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future? Or will the future look alarmingly like the present, just quieter?

For decades, the green version of "pimping" ones ride was turning a gasoline-burner into an electric vehicle. There are plenty of DIY books on the subject, with step-by-step instructions, but in both Canada and the U.S., companies like Electro Automotive will do the conversion for you, so with very little effort, you can drive away electric. However, the early versions of electric cars were not for people in a hurry or with long distances to drive. Vanguard electric-car drivers, like former Baywatch star Alexandra Paul, were happy with their retrofit prototypes that averaged from 50 km to 200 km between charges. (Paul eventually graduated to a GM EV1.)

But pokey retrofits are a thing of the past. New innovations are now allowing retrofits to be better performers than regular vehicles, thereby bringing a bright green future online. One of the most interesting technologies is the Engine Motor Interface System (EMIS) released in March by NetGain Technology. NetGain has a long history of making the most powerful direct-current (DC) motors, and has supplied motors for the award-winning NEDRA electric race cars. Developed in part with NASA, the EMIS allows conventional vehicles to be converted into plug-in hybrids. The EMIS monitors the internal combustion engine of a vehicle, determining how much electrical power needs to be applied to assist the engine and promises to increase mileage, at the very least by 30 percent. Since there is nothing new to learn on the driver's part, the EMIS system can be installed into an existing car in a few hours.

Another promising product is eEstor (electrical energy storage unit), which has been exciting everyone in the sustainable-transportation world. It operates much like a lead acid battery but claims to pack nearly 10 times the energy punch at half the costs, offering 400 km per charge. Even more astonishing, it recharges in less than five minutes. eEstor has yet to hit the market, but its arrival is eagerly anticipated, especially by Ian Clifford, CEO of Zenn Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, who owns the retrofit rights to the eEstor.

And this is where the story ends – so far.

Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, you'll be able pop out your engine and put in a NetGain motor and eEstor batteries so you can drive cross-country and back, meanwhile taking the same amount of time to recharge as it did to fill your tank without polluting the air one bit. And when that happens, ladies and gentlemen, we'll have a green winner!