While John Weber was living on a sailboat in Mexico, it did not escape his notice that he got all his power from a pair of solar-charged 12-volt deep cycle batteries. When he moved back to Idaho, he decided to make a solar-powered electric car.
He bought an electric motor, drive parts, and instructions from Wilderness EV (e-volks.com). He bought a $350 solar panel online from Costco. He picked up a 260,000-miles junker from an abandoned tow lot. The first step: taking out the unneeded parts: engine, gas tank, exhaust, muffler, and radiator — as Weber puts it, “all the oil-coated garbage.”
He put together eight 6-volt batteries in series to run the motor and a deep cycle 12-volt battery to run the “regular” car stuff like the turn signals and headlights, and added an electric charger for cloudy days. He had two welding jobs done on the car — four brackets on the roof to hold the solar panel and five additional battery brackets for the electric power.
The car runs quietly and smoothly. On the dash is a voltmeter instead of a gas gauge. Weber has a handwritten voltage list to determine when it’s time to park the car in the sun to recover the batteries to full charge. Once it’s “topped off” with energy from el sol, the car will go 10–20 miles in the city or 40–50 miles on open road.
The build took three or four months of weekend work and waiting for parts. Weber figures the whole project, including the junker car and the low-cost bright yellow paint job, cost him about $7,000 — and he’s not only recycled a car, he’s got zero fuel costs for it. With everything ready to go and assistance from a welder, Weber estimates he could build a second solar-powered car in a weekend — not including the paint job.