The Switch to Electric Car Kits

The Switch to Electric Car Kits

Recently, I visited Switch Vehicles, which is near the MAKE office in Sebastopol. They have produce a three-wheel electric car, which will be sold as a kit later this year. I met the founders, Peter Oliver, Jim McGreen, and Mark Perlmutter in what was formerly a Ford dealership and now is occupied by a variety of makers, mechanics, and entrepreneurs. Their goal is to connect with makers and carve out a new DIY niche in the electric car market.

Peter, who is an engineer and programmer, began teaching a class in electric car conversions at the Santa Rosa Junior College. “It’s going to take a person 450-500 hours to do a car or truck conversion,” he explained, adding that his course was based on modifying a Chevy S-10 truck. “It’s just not practical for most people to spend that much time on a conversion,” he said. That led him to think about developing a kit, which might take 30-40 hours to build. He connected with Jim McGreen, who was the founder of ZAP, which produced electric scooters and trikes, but had the original goal of building electric cars.

Peter said that this electric car comes in under 1300 pounds and qualifies as street legal as a motorcycle. The target price for the kit is somewhere between $10-$15K. They expect to be able deliver kits in August 2012. Their goal is to “start at a rock bottom price with a bare bones model that can be upgraded when owners are ready.” For instance, a wide range of covers or shells are possible add-ons.

I had to take it for a short test drive:

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Two things were really interesting to me. One was how fast it accelerated. The other was the feeling of being in an open-cockpit where you can see the wheels turning and you can see the road. I imagine it’s something like the feeling of a race car.

Here’s a driver who got the car up to speed, squealing tires and all:

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Here’s another driver having some fun fishtailing on wet pavement:

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We’ll be following the progress of Switch Vehicles and we hope to have them at Maker Faire this year.

20 thoughts on “The Switch to Electric Car Kits

  1. Kapetto says:

    Generic / trite ill-informed comment about perceived shortcomings of electric vehicles!

  2. Kapetto says:

    Oh, right, this is Make blog, not a mainstream news outlet story about electric vehicles…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Okay, I can get a body shell for it so I can take it in the rain, but what does it do to the cost/mileage when I add a heater and ABS so I can drive it in the MN winter(well not this winter but a normal winter). I’d also need to add some weight to the rear end so it doesn’t try to kill me on the snow as well.

    Anyways, looks good on paper, and as a motor cycle replacement, but “car” in the conventional sense it is not. It would be fun to play around in (again like a motorcycle and not like a car)

  4. Anonymous says:

    For $10-15k I’d prefer the Zero-s:

  5. Ed Hernandez says:

    Wow, this is one ugly three wheeler.  Out of the thousands of ways you could have made the chassis… Well this must have been the cheapest.

  6. Halfvast Conspirator says:

    For that kind of money you can buy those electric runabout things already built and ready to go.  Or less if you buy one used.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’d love more technical specs. What kind of battery do you get for your 10k? How many horsepower (or kW) is the motor rated to? How is it controlled? Inquiring makers want to know!

    From the website, they’re quoting 100 miles to a charge, so you must get a decent battery. Aerodynamically, it’s kind of a mess without a solid body, so that can only go up with tinkering.

  8. Mark Perlmutter says:

    Great explanation for everyone to comprehend from EV makers to soccer Moms.

  9. Mark Perlmutter says:

    Switch will definitely have a booth and give test rides at the SF Maker Faire 2012. Just let someone try to keep us away … Mark

  10. used tires says:

    Your article was really informative.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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