17-year old From Texas Builds Electric Car With $11,000 Budget
Lucas Laborde, “Luke” to his friends and family, spent most of the summer (around 150 hours of total work) converting an internal combustion-engined kit-car to battery power. The car is very close to be completely finished and it currently awaits a state inspection to be certified as street-legal.
"I've test-driven it around the block, but there's a couple of things to fix, like the windshield wipers. Then we'll get it inspected," says Laborde, who is in his final year at the International School of the Americas.
The donor vehicle for the battery powered motor is based on a Bradley GT II fiber-glass kit-car from the 1970s, which in turn is based on a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. The car was bought by Luke's father (no Star Wars pun intended), Ralph Laborde, who found it on eBay with $5,000.
After the Beetle air-cooled engine and fuel tank were scrapped, Ralph bought $1,000 worth of batteries (eight of eighty pounds each) and payed another $4,700 for the electric conversion parts needed. His son's sole ingenuity and talent took care of the rest.
Apart from the unexpected problem caused by the weight of the 12-volt lead-acid batteries (the fiber-glass body is slightly twisted so the gull-wing doors cannot be completely shut), the vehicle is in perfect running order. "I'm still working on that one,” says Luke, defending the problem with a smile.
Still using the Beetle's original manual four-speed transmission, it no longer needs the clutch to change gears and has a top speed of around 45 mph.