Roger Ward, two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, is now championing a new cause , electric vehicles.
Ward recently test-drove a Hyundai Accent rebuilt as an electric car by San Diego-based American Electric Automobile Co., Inc. His reaction: It’s a car he’d like to own.
The company rebuilds conventionally powered cars as electric vehicles out of its shop Downtown. Right now, there are a number of cars being worked on, including Audis and Volkswagen Beetles, said Ed Myers, the company’s chairman.
The Audis are part of a demonstration project for the Chinese government. The Audis, powered by a hybrid electric/gasoline engine, are being tested to see if they have what it takes to become part of the fleet of taxi cabs for the heavily polluted city of Beijing, he said.
Domestically, Myers hopes to sell the old-style VW Beetle , still being manufactured in Mexico , as an electric vehicle, pending negotiations with the Department of Transportation and other officials, he said.
The VW Beetle will be a niche vehicle for California drivers hoping to improve the environment. Other markets include people interested in conserving gasoline. Its sticker price will be about $16,000, Myers said.
People looking for a slightly more upscale electric vehicle can go for the Hyundai Accent. The car will sell for about $20,000, he said.
Myers can also convert a customer’s already existing car for about $12,000. Home charging equipment is included in the price, he said.
Myers relies on simple solutions and readily available technology that keeps costs down, but limits the car’s range. A car from Myers’ shop typically gets a range of about 50 to 60 miles on a single charge, putting it within the range of most commutes, Myers said.
Myers can also rebuild a car as a hybrid gasoline/electric vehicle. These use a gasoline engine to charge the battery, which in turn powers the car. A hybrid typically has a range of 150 miles on a single fill-up, he said.
Ward, who test drove the electric Hyundai, said he enjoyed the feel of a nongasoline-powered car. The acceleration was excellent, and the motor was nearly noiseless, he said.
“Two thumbs up, and I want one,” he said.