Plugged in: Bonny Doon business adapts cars to electric

In 1989, Mike Brown and his wife Shari Prange (electric vehicle conversion company owners) they published “Convert It,” a how-to guide for transforming a gasoline car to electric.

Contact Isaiah Guzman at 429-2436 or Automotive
Brown and Prange’s Bonny Doon-based business, Electro Automotive, sells kits to convert gas cars to electric. The conversions are done by shops or customers. According to Brown and Prange, their business is the oldest of its kind.


Electro Automotive started to grow after the first Gulf War, saw a lull during the late 1990s, and has boomed since 2005 as gas prices continue to rise and any issue green has taken center stage. The federal government is funding green technologies and giving tax credits to drivers of hybrid cars. Biodiesel vehicles and stations are on the rise as Congress has put in place a number of incentive programs. Even San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed a rebate program for drivers who rent hybrids at San Francisco International Airport.

Electro Automotive, meanwhile, is selling two kits per week for strictly electric vehicles that plug into a socket to charge. And while the minimum cost of converting a car is around $8,000, the long-term rewards are financially and environmentally enticing: Between 4 and 6 cents worth of electricity per mile and no carbon dioxide from a tailpipe. No tailpipe. All gas-related components are ripped out.

Prange says she often hears the argument that pollution is just shifted from a gas car to an electric power plant, but she rebuts that idea.

“Even if you include the pollution generated at the electric power plant, an electric car is still 85-95 percent cleaner than a comparable gas car,” she said. “And if you really want to be fair, that comparison has to include oil refineries.”

These conversions don’t do away with all performance, either. According to Bill Lentfer, an electric car enthusiast who has helped Brown and Prange grow their business, almost any gas car can be converted with the right amount of time and money. Cars with high-performance kits can go 75-85 mph, Lentfer said, although usually run for less than 100 miles before needing a charge.

“We can spin the tires if that’s what you’re looking for,” he said.

Prange estimates she and Brown have done more than 1,000 kits total as they devote almost all their time to their industry, including teaching workshops in other states and working as transportation editors for Home Power Magazine. And as their business continues to grow, they continue contributing to both the economy and environment.

“Oil is just going to continue being an issue,” said Prange, “and I think American manufacturers are going to try as long as they can to get by with hybrids. … If major electric car production comes, it will come from Europe or Tokyo, and Detroit, as usual, will be running to catch up.”


More on Electric Vehicles From The Green Living Guy

Return of The Electric Car

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More from The Green Living Guy:

 1. Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman and Bob Brandt

2. Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman

3. Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel