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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


Early Convert is Sold On Electric Cars

Sep 07, 2012 09:43AM ● By Julie Thibodeaux

A few years ago, Neal Farris was looking for an old car to fix up as a fun project. However, as he was researching, the Dallas native learned that new fuel mixtures weren’t always compatible with old engines. That’s when a light bulb went off. Why not update a vintage model to the latest technology? He researched the mechanics of converting an older model to electric. As a commercial photographer, he was comfortable with tinkering with equipment and grasped the instructions. Then he discovered a resource even better than an online manual; the North Texas Electric Auto Association.

“If I wanted to build an electric car, here’s a dozen guys I could ask for help,” says Farris. He began attending meetings, where he met electric car enthusiasts from all walks of life. Members had converted everything from a 1964 Chevy Malibu to a John Deere tractor to electric power. As a result, today Farris is an electric car convert who commutes to work in a 1999 Volkswagen Golf that he brought back to life as an e-car.

“If you knew how simple it was to convert a car to electric, you’d be mad that there weren’t more electric cars on the road,” he says. As much as he loves his home-built electric vehicle (EV), he plans to upgrade and is on the waiting list for a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Touted as a breakthrough in affordability, the all-electric i-MiEV starts at $29,000, and for a limited time, buyers are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Farris said he likes the i-MiEV because it’s distinctive. Many of the hybrids and EVs on the market look like every other compact car on the road, he said. The i-MiEV is built to stand out. Sherri Herring, of Don Herring Mitsubishi, says they jumped at the chance to start selling the sporty EVs at their Irving and Plano dealerships in April. The cars, which come in colors like raspberry and two-tone blue and white, can be detailed with custom decals such as e-symbols and stripes. So far, Herring said the cars have appealed to a younger generation that’s environmentally conscious, as well as middle-aged drivers wanting to reduce their gas bills.

The i-MiEV was rated as the Greenest Car of 2012 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, because of its zero on-road emissions, light weight and high miles per kilowatt-hour rating. According to Mitsubishi, power for the i-MiEV costs about $3.60 for every 100 miles traveled. That equates to about 112 combined miles per gallon (of gasoline) equivalent.

Electric cars are growing in popularity in North Texas. According to the North Texas Central Council of Governments, there are more than 400 electric or hybrid vehicles owners in the North Texas 16-county region and already more than 100 public charging stations operating across the Metroplex.

Farris, whose wife drives a hybrid, says many people hesitate to purchase electric cars because they want to be able to drive long distances. While he noted most electric cars are suitable for people that drive fewer than 60 miles a day, he advises pairing it with a hybrid or a gas-powered car for out-of-town driving. “Most people have two cars, there’s no reason one of them shouldn’t be an electric car.”

By driving an electric car, Farris says he saves money, reduces maintenance (no more oil changes) and helps the environment. He’s also hooked on how quiet they run. “Electric vehicles are the cars my kids are going to drive,” he says. “It makes so much common sense.”

Julie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer in Dallas.

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