'EV West uses batteries from crashed Tesla-S EVs'
Meet the DIY mechanics retrofitting classic cars with electric motors
November 3, 2017 Louise Matsakis
Jehu Garcia's Volkswagen Bus runs on off-the-grid-sourced electric power /
Jehu Garcia's VW Bus is all EV inside
evbike Even children's bikes can be electrified / Louise Matsakis/Vice
VW Bug with Tesla Model S guts This Volkswagen Bug has been treated to
electrification at EV West using Tesla Model S bits / Motherboard
That's not a gas nozzle being hooked up to EV West's 1978 Ferrari 308 /
Watch this: Dear Future: Batteries will be a thing of the past 11:08
EV West, a car shop in California, built the world's first electric Ferrari.
"What sound does daddy's car make?" Michael Bream asked his son, Eli. The
two-year-old paused for a moment. "Vroom," he said.
"No, that's not it," Bream said. Something clicked inside Eli and he made
another, softer noise. "Woosh." Bream nodded.
Bream's car and the classic hot rods his shop modifies don't sound like
normal vehicles when you race them on the highway. That's because they run
completely electric—no gas required. I paid a visit to Bream's shop, EV
West, in Southern California this October.
EV West is a boutique car garage specializing in removing combustion engines
and replacing them with electric batteries. Bream and his team of around a
dozen technicians have transformed everything from a 1950s Volkswagen bus to
a Ferrari 308 GTS from gas guzzlers to fully-electric rides.
Older vehicles are often less efficient and release more carbon emissions
than their newer counterparts, but many people choose to drive them anyway
because, well, they look cool. Thanks to EV West, car fanatics don't need
to compromise between the environment and having a classic ride.
"We're part of the anti-Tesla crowd but in a very positive way," Bream told
Bream's small car garage is located behind a string of commercial warehouses
in San Marcos, California, a sleepy suburb not far from San Diego. The whole
place feels more like a computer lab than a car shop. There's no gasoline
smell, and the garage is devoid of the kind of grease I associate with my
local mechanic. On the walls are old car posters that have been photoshopped
to boast the benefits of electric power.
In one corner is a Tesla Powerwall, a large battery that stores energy
harvested from 18 or so solar panels on EV West's roof. Bream's team uses
the Powerwall to charge many of its electric cars ...
EV West acquires batteries for its cars in an usual way. When a Tesla Model
S crashes, its parts are often sold at auction. Bream's garage then snaps
them up, and installs them inside vintage cars. The old engines are sold on
the secondhand market, where there's still demand for original vintage
Modifying a car to utilize electric power doesn't come cheap. If you want to
have EV West do it for you, it'll cost around $18,000. That's if you bring
in a vintage Volkswagen Beetle and want it outfitted with an electric
battery that has a 100 mile range. Different model cars and larger batteries
will cost you extra. You'll also need to be patient: business is booked for
the next year.
"We really take our time to make sure (the cars) are up to our standards,"
Bream told me.
While wandering around Bream's shop, I met some of the gearheads who work
for him, like Spencer Larue. In college at San Diego State University, he
built an electric mini bike that he ripped around indoors. "Because it's
electric, I could cruise down the hallways," Larue said.
After checking out the garage, Bream took me for a ride in a vintage
electric Volkswagen Beetle painted bright yellow. "This is an old car,"
Bream said. "Sometimes the doors open." He then ripped the Bug around a
weedy field behind the garage, as a half-dozen or so of his mechanics
watched me scream out the passenger side window.
Riding in a vintage car modded to use electric power feels strange. The car
quietly surges forward, and doesn't rumble at all. It feels smooth in a way
that a manual transmission isn't supposed to. It's like the car is somehow
running on butter. The experience is pleasingly futuristic—even if the
upholstery your butt rests on is decades old.
EV West is ultimately a tiny shop that's part of an equally small
industry—at least for now. The garage only mods around a dozen cars per
year, and less than one percent of vehicles on the road worldwide today run
At the same time, EV West stands at the edge of a promising future for
electric vehicles. They're set to outsell fossil-fuel powered cars within
two decades, Bloomberg's New Energy Finance group predicts. Cars with a plug
will constitute a third of the global auto fleet by 2040, displacing eight
million barrels a day in oil production, according to the same report.
That's significantly more oil than all of ExxonMobil produces each day.
One of the reasons experts predict electric vehicles will finally become
mainstream is that the cost of producing the lithium-ion batteries they
depend on is dropping rapidly. Battery prices are crucial because they
represent one-third of the cost of building an electric car. The cost of
making one fell 35 percent in 2015, and the world's lithium mines are
already bracing for a major uptick in sales of electric vehicles in the next
couple of years.
"I fear people won't do the right thing (drive electric) until it's
cheapest," Bream told me. "My only true hope is that these renewables will
Experts estimate that Bream's hope could soon become reality. By 2040,
long-range electric cars will cost less than $22,000 in today's dollars.
That's pretty cheap—a 2017 Honda Civic costs about the same.
One question left to answer: If electric cars hit the road en masse, how
will we harness the necessary electricity to power them? The answer is
likely renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Solar power in
particular is promising: It's currently the fastest growing source of new
energy, according to the International Energy Agency. Jobs in the industry
are also reportedly growing 17 times faster than the US economy.
Still, there's reason to be skeptical about a future where electric cars
rule the road. For now, they can't go very far without recharging, and
charging stations remain scarce. As electric cars help bring the cost of oil
down, there's also a chance other parts of the world will double-down on
newly cheaper fossil fuels.
Michael Bream and his team at EV West have chosen to remain optimistic, for
good reason. Every car in their garage is a testament to how the power of
clean, electric energy can transform how we get around. Especially the
bright red 1978 Ferrari 308 GTE [
The car was burned in a fire and later restored to utilize a new power
source, making it the world's first electric Ferrari. Eric Hutchison, a
friend of EV West, found the sportscar at a junkyard, bought it for a steep
discount, and rebuilt it. Riding in the car feels particularly rebellious
when you consider that Ferrari's chairman Sergio Marchionne once said that
an electric Ferrari would be "obscene."
I bet he's never taken the world's first for a spin.
[© CBS Interactive]
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