For the ultimate in avoiding high pump prices, you can go electric, however new battery-powered cars from Tesla and Fisker are pretty costly. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe electric 914's price proves that needn't be the case, but is it still shocking?
The British never had a robust space program, and seemingly to make up for that, yesterday's 2010 Defender diesel 110 came with a price tag that could be considered astronomical. It didn't take a rocket scientist to determine that was a Crack Pipe price, as 85% of you observed. With gas prices going through the roof, maybe it is time to give the SUV a rest, as it seems melding serious off-road-ability with good fuel economy is akin to capturing lightning in a bottle. Of course, if you really could snatch up that lightning, and store it in one of your mom's Mason jars, you might just be able to power today's quiet riot Porsche.
The Porsche 914 never provided the kind of electrifying performance of its 911 big brother, being saddled with a motor that was more modest in horsepower, cylinder count, and provenance. Sure there was the 914-6, but that was different enough to be considered a completely separate model, and had enough Porsche in it to not merit the VW badge on the back. But the four-banger 914, sharing its engine with Volkswagen's 412, failed to offer straight-line performance in equal to its handling prowess.
The builder of this 914 has flipped its pancake four in favor of a 3-phase electric motor from Azure Dynamics. According to the press release (PDF warning) that motor provides 75 Nm peak torque and 13 Kw continuous power. One of the biggest challenges of electric car mechanics (electrics?) is controlling the electron flows between charger and battery, battery and motor, motor and back when using regenerative braking. The builder,
C. Everett Koop college professor Charlton Jones, says he paired the AC24 motor with its companion DMOC 445 controller unit, so as to keep everything all in the family. And providing the storage medium for all those nutty electrons needed to spin the motor are 18 lead-acid golf cart batteries - all of which are claimed to have been replaced back in September of last year.
What kind of performance does this drivetrain provide? Well, you still won't mistake this 914 for a 911, and even though the Tesla Roadster manages to provide whisper quiet performance that's worth shouting about, the ELECTRO CUTIE won't be confused with one of those either. The builder suggests that performance is adequate for traffic, and that it will do 70-mph should pressed by tsunami or an unanticipated bout of embarrassing incontinence. The payoff, so claimed, is a 100-mile range. After that, he says to plan on 8 hours to fully recharge so you might want to nurse your drink after driving it to the bar.
A 100 mile range does not make this a worthwhile long distance tourer, but for around town and driving to and from work, it should do just fine. And seriously, if your commute to work is greater than 100 miles each way, well, it sucks to be you. And, the best part of the equation is that you'll no longer be sucking on the oily teat of Shell, BP or whichever fuel company you choose to give all your money to. Depending on where you live, and how much your electricity costs, you could roll in this 914 for mere pennies a mile - like two. And you won't have to leave all the comforts of home back with its extension cord as it does come with both a CD stereo and a ceramic heater.
Watching the news video demonstrates just how quiet this car is when moving. It's so much so that all you can hear is its 37-year old suspension creaking and groaning under the weight of all that lead, and all that acid. C Everett has thoughtfully placed 9 of the batteries in the front compartment, and 9 in the back, providing a semblance of balance, however the thought of that much weight and caustic chemical potentially becoming airborne in an accident is a bit concerning. However, as he claims to have been a long-time tinkerer and professes to owning a full set of wrenches, you can be assured the build - including strapping those bad boys down - was at least semi-professionally done.
The parts that were done by Porsche (or VW more accurately) also look to be in good shape, and the rust fairy has not seemed to have visited it while it slumbered. Maybe she's scared of getting electrocuted? Inside, there's the typical wide and flat dash, and equally wide and flat seats, and surprisingly, the gear shift for the 5-speed transmission. Electric motors typically don't require a gearbox outside of providing a way of reversing without the monkey business of reversing polarity, or putting the batteries in backwards. That's because they tend to produce 100% of their torque from zero rpm, and can spin pretty high - like 12,000 rpm - without batting an eyelash. This one was obviously left in place because that was the easiest solution to providing both that reverse gear and halfshafts to the wheel hubs. After all, if it ain't broke. . .
The seller (who is not C Everett Koop) claims that he has put about 2,000 miles on the car since buying it - making for about 20 charges. He says he's selling it because his commute is now longer and he is scared of his South Florida neighbors and their driving habits. The normal response would be dude, man up!, but then you realize that he's driving an electric car making him very likely a hemp-wearing hippie with little stomach for road rage and probably a stash of fine sensimilla in the ashtray.
However, don't let the potential for containing good bud sway your opinion of this car's value - that should be left to its price - $12,000 - and its potential impact on your overall cost per mile. Considering that a regular 914 in this kind of shape will typically go for $4,000 - $6,000, you'll have to consider whether all the golf cart batteries and the potential for your farts being louder than your car factor into your deliberations. So what do you think, is $12,000 a fair price to pay to move a major driving expense from pump to plug? Or, does that price just not justify getting all amped up?
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