Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

October 12, 2008

The do-it-yourself electric truck — saves money?

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:07 am

Instapundit links to this story about a guy who converted his pickup to run on electricity. Here are the stats:

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) _ Finding cheap gas is no longer a major concern for Frank Lawrence.

Instead of filling up at the pump, he’s charging up his 1993 Chevrolet S-10 to run on two dozen 6-volt golf cart batteries.

“You know what you spend a week on gas, and all of a sudden your money disappears,” he said. Lawrence estimates he was spending $100 a week on gas before the conversion.

Total investment for the truck and conversion was $12,000. The batteries cost $150 apiece and should last for about 20,000 miles.

Lawrence said in the long run, he’s saving money because it only costs about $1 a day to charge the batteries. He typically drives the truck about 40 miles a day.

Let’s see how much money he’s saving:

Charging adds $1 to his electric bill, and gets him 40 miles. That’s 2.5 cents per mile.

The conversion cost $12,000, and is supposed to last 20,000 miles. That’s 60 cents per mile.

Total cost: 62.5 cents per mile.

Now, a normal Chevy S-10 has a mileage rating of 16 to 27 miles per gallon, depending on the specific model, and whether it’s the “city” or “highway” rating. Let’s be as generous as reasonably possible and assume he got 15 miles per gallon before the conversion. That means at 62.5 cents per mile, his cost is equivalent to spending $9.375 per gallon.

Gas is now between $3 and $4 per gallon.

How much, again, is he saving?

Sounds to me like his “investment” is losing money hand over fist.

And that’s not even taking into account the implied value of all the labor hours he spent doing the conversion!

6 Responses to “The do-it-yourself electric truck — saves money?”

  1. David Hrivnak Says:

    I would give the guy a bit more credit. First he said the batteries should last about 20,000 miles. The rest of the parts will last a lot longer. The batteries are only $1800 of the cost. I am sure a lot of people said horses were a lot cheaper and easier than the first generation of cars. Then what if there is a gas shortage. In the tricities TN local stations ran out of gas 3 weeks ago and the price shot up $1 in one day. Imagine if gasoline was shut off for a month. $9 would be a bargain. But Mr. Lawrence will be driving along.

  2. Different River Says:

    Fair enough comment about the batteries being part of the cost. Let’s try again:

    “[T]wo dozen 6-volt golf cart batteries. … cost $150 apiece and should last for about 20,000 miles.”

    That’s $3600 for batteries.

    The truck is already 15 years old; let’s assume for the sake of the argument it has 60,000 miles left in it. That’s about 5 years of driving, if he drives 40 miles a day, 5-6 days a week. I think that’s a fairly generous assumption as to the condition of the rest of the car.

    That’s equivalent to a gas price of $7.175 per gallon.

    I still think he’s losing money.

    Now we have $20,000 for the conversion, plus $3600 times 2 for two more rounds of batteries. That’s $27,200. 60,000 miles at 40 miles per charge is 1,500 charges, or $1,500 dollars. Thus, the total cost of 60,000 miles is $28,700. That’s 47.8 cents per mile.

  3. Timothy Horrigan Says:

    Well, this is a pilot project. He will at least be able to put a similar system in his next truck, which is likely to be newer than a current one. And if things work out well, he can begin massproducing them, in which case his system is likely to be cheaper than gasoline.

    And ven though gas dropped to $3/gallon just before the election, $7-$10 gas prices at some point in the near future are not totally inconceivable.

  4. Different River Says:

    Well sure, if you want to justify it as an experiment, that’s fine. But in the article he claims he is saving money on this truck — and he isn’t. Even if the car lasts forever, he’s losing money at current prices. If the car goes another 200,000 miles, he breaks even if gas averages $3.975/gallon. But how likely is that for a car that’s already 15 years aold?

    And, he still can’t drive it in the rain!

  5. Waffles Says:

    The mileage on the truck doesn’t matter. The setup essentially bypasses the transmission and clutch. Everything else is easy and cheap to repair. And who care’s if he’s losing money, seems like a really cool project. You don’t drive a motorcycle in the rain either, and people dump way more money in to those things. Just my 2 cents.

  6. Rob Says:

    You have still forgotten something a couple of more things

    1) The cooling requirements are much lower for electric cars.
    2) There is no required oil changes for the electric motors.

    Driving in the rain is a solved problem, think, diesel electric trains, electric trains (even old ones like the CG-1), electric powered submarines … . Lots of examples of electric powered vehicles going in damp environments.

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