Gas-guzzlers go green in backyard garages

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by MARCUS MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarcusMoorewfaa

WFAA

Posted on April 9, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 11 at 2:39 AM

DALLAS — A growing number of North Texans are saying goodbye to the gas pump, and some are doing it in their own garage.

"It is just so simple. I mean it's crazy," said Neal Farris, one of the nearly two dozen people in the area who have turned older gas-powered cars into electric vehicles.

"It's just like a normal car," he explained while driving a white 1999 Volkswagen Golf around the streets of Dallas.

"My wife thought I was completely crazy, which actually was a good thing, because it made me finish the car," Farris said. "Instead of languishing in my garage, I was like, 'I've got to get this thing done!'"

It took him six months to convert the car that's now powered by 44 lithium batteries. He drives the car to and from work on a daily basis.

"I drive on the highway at 65 mph," Farris said proudly.

He’s a member of the North Texas Electric Auto Association. The group meets regularly and is made up of people just like Farris who have transformed ordinary autos into something really special.

One member converted a Pontiac Fiero into a battery-powered car.

Students at Bonham High School did the same thing with a Mazda pickup truck.

Farris believes — in a small way — members of his organization are helping make electric cars the norm.

"It's going to take a little while for people to wrap their heads around what an electric car is and what it does," he said.

Dr. Lacey Plachey, an automotive analyst with California-based Edmunds.com, said the high cost of batteries and a lack of charging stations are the biggest obstacles to any move away from the gas pump.

"The infrastructure is key," she said. "I think all else aside, consumer acceptance, price differential... that's a really big thing."

That may be changing in North Texas. Today, you will find six dozen charging stations in Fort Worth, Dallas and surrounding areas. Jason Buckland with eVgo says his company has a vision for all-electric mobility.

"Chargers along the highway that can take you from Dallas into Austin. Stops along the way: Hillsboro, Waco, Temple, that sort of thing," he said.

But for now, the road is much shorter for people like Farris. The car he converted will only travel about 40 miles between charges, and it can take more than two hours to charge his car.

More powerful charging stations can do the same in 15 minutes.

"I feel very successful in the fact that I got the car going," Farris said. "I drive it on a daily basis and I really enjoy it."

Interested? Farris said you can probably convert a car from gas to electric for $5,000 at the low end; you can also spend as much as $20,000. The big variable is the cost of the batteries.

E-mail mmoore@wfaa.com

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