Turning a junker into a sun-charged electric vehicle.
By Ben Shedd
Fig. A: John Weber’s solar car gets its charge from a
$350 solar panel he picked up at Costco. He bought
the motor, parts, and instructions from e-volks.com.
Fig. B: To run the motor, Weber uses eight 6-volt
batteries, for a total of 48 volts. Three of the batteries
(not shown here) are in the front engine space.
Photography by John Weber and Ben Shedd
WHILE JOHN WEBER WAS LIVING ON A is a voltmeter instead of a gas gauge. Weber has
sailboat in Mexico, it did not escape his notice that he a handwritten voltage list to determine when it’s time
got all his power from a pair of solar-charged 12-volt to park the car in the sun to recover the batteries to
deep cycle batteries. When he moved back to Idaho, full charge. Once it’s “topped off” with energy from
he decided to make a solar-powered electric car. el sol, the car will go 10– 20 miles in the city or
He bought an electric motor, drive parts, and 40– 50 miles on open road.
instructions from Wilderness EV ( e-volks.com). The build took three or four months of weekend
He bought a $350 solar panel online from Costco. work and waiting for parts. Weber figures the whole
He picked up a 260,000-miles junker from an aban- project, including the junker car and the low-cost
doned tow lot. The first step: taking out the unneeded bright yellow paint job, cost him about $7,000 —
parts: engine, gas tank, exhaust, muffler, and radiator and he’s not only recycled a car, he’s got zero fuel
— as Weber puts it, “all the oil-coated garbage.” costs for it. With everything ready to go and assis-
He put together eight 6-volt batteries in series to tance from a welder, Weber estimates he could build
run the motor and a deep cycle 12-volt battery to a second solar-powered car in a weekend — not
run the “regular” car stuff like the turn signals and including the paint job.
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
Ben Shedd is an Academy Award-winning science
documentary maker. He wrote “The Year People Learned
to Fly” on page 84 of this volume of MAKE.