I have a crowd funding campaign at www.IndieGoGo.com/ZWheelz to fund the development of a very simple EV kit that can be assembled in one week verses the years that it typically takes to build a kit car or the many hours required to do a conversion. It starts with an open-air vehicle, then progresses to a fully-enclosed vehicle. The frame would be provided along with all mounts and wiring harnesses. The after market wheels, brakes and suspension kits would bolt on, then the batteries just drop directly into the frame. The electric motor and controller are simple to bolt on, then the wiring harness with a complete one-piece instrument panel, and then seats and seat belts. The focus is on validating the process of the frame fabrication, and maximizing the use of off the shelf parts while minimizing parts count. Once one frame is completed, it will be very easy to make changes and build another frame in as little as one day. Believe it or not, the electric part of building an electric car is really easy. That's what makes this an Easy EV (Electric Vehicle) to manufacture and build.
However, this is about much more than the first version or even any vehicle design itself. It's about creating a network of local micro manufacturers of EV's, and a global open source design community. A guy in a garage can be set up to manufacture kits with under $20K, mainly for a large CNC router. A variety of vehicles could be developed with the same method of using interlocked CNC cut composite panels, from bicycles and scooters to cars and trucks. The manufacturer would only need the composite panels and a CNC machine to produce any of the vehicles.
One large auto manufacturer can setup a factory to produce 100,000 cars and ship them around the world, or 1,000 local micro manufacturers can build 100 per year and have the same impact with a lower carbon footprint, helping improve local and national economies, and providing consumer confidence that they have a large open source support network to service and upgrade the vehicles.
The plans would be available so that anyone could build it from scratch, order cut panels and then bond the frame together, order a complete frame, a complete kit or sub kits, or a complete "turn-key" vehicle. The initial kit is a trike, which is considered a motorcycle in most states in the US, but it can be easily converted to a four wheel vehicle with either two seats or four seats.
The development process lends itself very well to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs like the BEST and FIRST robotics programs. It is low cost and the variety of skills required in the 1/4 scale rapid prototyping process includes learning CAD and mechanical engineering, using a desktop CNC router and a desktop 3D printer, and then learning about electric vehicles, instrumentation and software. There are even some very simple CAD programs that kids can learn that will still drive a 3D printer, and the 1/4 scale vehicles could be made fully-functional with inexpensive radio controlled car parts. Competitions could be held like drag races, closed course races and reliability course tests. Full-size vehicles could be created from the same CAD files using the same process, and used in high schools and colleges for learning about electric vehicles.
Also, the vehicle is a "battery box on wheels" or a skateboard chassis, which would make a perfect "test mule" for the development of EV subsystems due to the easy access of all components, and the modularity and the flexibility to accept a wide variety of drive systems and battery packs.
I am looking for help in many ways including partners and co-ops, and spreading the word and providing feedback. I would also be interested in working with people to apply for educational grants to teach rapid prototyping and electric vehicle design and maintenance.
Here is a recent 1/2 hour talk by the winner of the $5M Auto X-Prize about the future of cars. He stresses the importance of lightweight, electric, locally manufactured, inexpensive, highly customizable vehicles with high use of plastic moldings. This is very similar to what I'd like to do except instead of molded plastic, large 3D printers can be used for body panels. Instead of thin panels like traditional car fenders, they could be 3D printed as very thick foam-like quarter panels to absorb impacts. The panels could be custom designed for each customer, and easily installed and removed to meet the current weather conditions. This chassis can also be tweaked to accept bodies like the Sunrise, the Freedom EV, the Atlantric and CarBEN among others.
Thanks for your time,
ZWheelz, LLC - www.ZWheelz.com
Alamo City Electric Auto Association - www.aceaa.org
blog - http://voices.mysanantonio.com/drive_electric_san_antonio/
San Antonio, TX