Plug-In Evangelist Hopes to Sell the World on His Inexpensive DIY EV
Gary Krysztopik stands in a green metal warehouse in a small private air park on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, surrounded by boxes of belongings, auto parts, and several electric vehicles. He and his wife recently sold their house and bought a recreational vehicle. They are about to embark on a journey to inform people in the United States how easy it is to build your own plug-in electric vehicle.
“What I am trying to do is create a foundation” for a do-it-yourself electric vehicle, Krysztopik told PluginCars.com.
He’s not talking about converting internal combustion engine cars into EVs. Krysztopik aims to convince others to get into the business of manufacturing a simple EV which he will be honing the design of while roving the U.S. in the RV.
He has already built a dune-buggy-like three-wheeled EV. Now he is working on a small electric car that can be easily produced by a number of people at the same time. Krysztopik said he will produce a quarter-sized version of the vehicle for demonstration purposes.
Though he is an electrical engineer, producing the vehicle has more to do with mechanical engineering, he said. “I am buying all this off the shelf.” Including the method of production. The vehicle body can be manufactured using computer numerical control (CNC) machining, he said. Krysztopik has a quarter-scale CNC machine now so he can produce the demo model.
The body of the small car EV will be made out of a plastic and fiberglass composite material. The design will be “open source”, that is it will be downloadable for anyone who wants to manufacture it, explained Krysztopik. “I will provide every single detail,” including the CAD and a parts list, he said.
The electric drivetrain will be scalable, using either an AC35 or AC50 motor. The battery pack can be as small or large as the buyer is willing to pay for, something like the Tesla business model. “The idea is you can size the motor and the battery to your budget,” said Krysztopik.
He will also be working on a new generation of a three-wheeled EV he designed, using the same plastic and fiberglass material, said Krysztopik. He is also designing an electric bicycle and an electric scooter that is closer to a motorcycle than the current scooter, he said.
As he and his wife travel the U.S. in their RV, Krysztopik aims to connect with other EV enthusiasts around the U.S. and hopefully find some that have the desire and means to produce his DIY EV. Rather than one company producing thousands of vehicles, Krysztopik envisions many small-scale producers.
He sees the market as global. “It could be used in countries that needed simple transportation,” he said. Krysztopik tried to fund the project through Kickstarter, a website that crowd sources funding, but he was rejected. He then went to IndieGoGo and raised a few thousand dollars when he sought $100,000. Though he didn’t get much funding, he did see a lot of interest from other countries, including India, Japan, China, and Italy, he said.
Krysztopik figures he and his wife can pursue his dream for at least two and half years living off her income from doing contracting and the money from the house sale, plus any consulting fees he might bring in.
A 'Steve Jobs Moment'
Krysztopik, an electric engineer by training, wasn’t into electric vehicles in 2007 when he went to see “Who killed the Electric Car.” But the movie—about the creation and then destruction of the EV1 by General Motors—was “a Steve Jobs moment” for me, said Krysztopik. “It all kind of lined up,” he said. “How could I be an electrical engineer, love cars, and care about the environment and not even know about electric cars?”
He started reading up on EVs, got on EV-related mailing lists, and started an EVA chapter in San Antonio. Krysztopik also started a business converting internal combustion engine vehicles into electric vehicles. “I realized there was no money at all in conversions,” he said. Now before you start protesting, consider that Krysztopik lives in Texas, a state with a lot of oil wells. “Texas is in general a black hole in the EV world” with the exception of Austin, he said.
Krysztopik first tried his hand at an electric bike before deciding to design and build his own EV. It took about six months to design a three-wheeled battery electric vehicle and about six months to build it, he said. It now shares space in the warehouse with his belongings.
Though he doesn’t advertise his conversion business anymore, Krysztopik still takes on a handful of projects. Currently in the warehouse is a Toyota MR2 electric vehicle that Krysztopik is equipping with a lithium ion battery. He did the original conversion with a lead-acid battery—the owner now wants an upgrade, Krysztopik explained.
Mostly when he is asked to do conversions, however, “I tell people to go out and buy a LEAF,” he said.
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