South African firm EV Drive recently announced plans to compete in the upcoming Sasol Solar Challenge with a converted Puma race car. This Gauteng-based manufacturer specializes in converting traditional vehicles into plug-in models at minimal cost. A race team lead by experienced driver Shane Kroan will operate a Puma plug-in racer intended as a practical demonstrator rather than a prototype. The Sasol Solar Challenge is a 2,796-mile race through South Africa featuring green vehicles produced around the world. EV Drive will compete with electric sedans, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and prototype models not only for awards but the attention of eco-conscious consumers.
EV Drive’s Puma plug-in vehicle spent 36 months in development at various facilities throughout South Africa. Engineers in Johannesburg worked with the body team in Pretoria and drive system developers in Vereeniging to create a functional demonstrator. The 2,068-pound Puma plug-in is not designed merely as an auto show bauble but an example of the feasibility of EV Drive’s drive system. EV Drive will compete in the Green Fleet class at the Sasol Solar Challenge, a category for teams interested in demonstrating practical vehicles. The Puma racer as operated in the upcoming event would be priced from $42,080.
Representatives from EV Drive used their Solar Challenge announcement to point out the benefits of EV conversions. The converted Puma can travel up to 124 miles per hour with a maximum range of 155 miles. EV Drive plans to swap out batteries throughout the race to travel up to 288 miles per day. Conversions offered for coupes, sedans and trucks range from $11,000 to $18,000 according to EV Drive. A converted family vehicle not only reduces fuel costs by about 80% but requires minimum maintenance at scheduled 50,000-mile intervals. The EV Drive retrofitting process accommodates a broad spectrum of vehicles ranging from two-door minicars to 15-ton construction machines.
The Sasol Solar Challenge is a biennial event receiving support this year from the namesake energy company as well as the FIA. Teams leave Pretoria on September 18th for a two-week journey that passes through major cities like Cape Town and Springbok. The 2012 race expands the format beyond four-wheel models to ATVs and motorcycles powered by electricity. Competitors race toward the top of the charts in three categories including average energy consumption, average battery use and average time per stage. Cities hosting stages of the Sasol Solar Challenge plan public events to promote solar energy, electric vehicles and sustainable practices.
Broader adoption of electric vehicles around the world goes beyond automakers producing new vehicles. Government officials and utilities must develop public charging infrastructure that maintains a steady pace of daily life for EV drivers. Consumers have to be convinced that higher upfront costs in the short term can yield major savings over the lives of plug-in vehicles. EV Drive is among an expanding group of retrofitting firms that could resolve issues over used vehicle disposal. An EV retrofit market provides an affordable alternative to the trickle of factory EVs hitting the market. Retrofits keep used vehicles out of landfills and junkyards while creating competition that could bring down upfront costs for new EVs.