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Student converts car to electric

North Island College student David Davidovic shows off the electric engine of his car. He successfully converted it over three years, then decided to enter the college’s Electronic Technician Core program to learn more.  - Photo submitted
North Island College student David Davidovic shows off the electric engine of his car. He successfully converted it over three years, then decided to enter the college’s Electronic Technician Core program to learn more.
— image credit: Photo submitted

From the outside, David Davidovics’ car looks like any other older-model four-door sedan, but on the inside this car has an electric secret.

Davidovics designed and created the e-car himself over three years, then registered in North Island College’s (NIC) Electronics Technician Core program to perfect the car’s performance.

“After building the car, I decided there was still a lot to learn about electronics and there is only so much you can do at home,” he said. “I wanted a program that would allow me to understand the car’s electrical components. Anyone can buy components and install them; I wanted to know what goes into them.”

About three years ago, Davidovics bought a 1996 Saturn in Victoria and headed home to Campbell River determined to test his idea.

Though he’d never driven an electric car before, Davidovics knew the Saturn frame was both light and sturdy enough to be a candidate for electric conversion. The car also had a manual transmission, doors, and locks, and a reputation for burning oil, making them more affordable on the used car market.

“I wanted to see if I could do it,” he said. “I was looking at the electric cars that were coming out of Detroit and I thought it might just be possible.”

Davidovics took out the gas engine and transmission, sourced recently available lithium batteries, an electric motor and components, cut a hole in the trunk to make room for a third battery, and contacted a machinist to build custom parts.

The process was not without setbacks or cost, but Davidovics was determined to make the Saturn his main form of daily transportation in and around Campbell River. The car costs $4 to charge and has an estimated range of 160 kilometres per charge. Depending on his use and speed, a single charge lasts about a week.

When he graduates from NIC’s nine-month Electronics Technician Core program in June, he plans to continue at the college with the Industrial Automation Technician diploma in September to gain more detailed electronic skills and knowledge.

“An electric car is essentially an industrial plant on wheels,” said NIC instructor Cory Batch, who graduated from the program himself about 15 years ago. “It literally uses all the same equipment, controls, and feedback that our students

learn in class. It will be interesting to see how David integrates the skills he learns in the program into his own or other electric cars.”

NIC continually works with industry and employers to ensure students have the knowledge and applied skills to grow with the industry.

“David’s skill set is right on target,” said Batch. “Electric cars are the technology of the future. Our students need to learn the theory and applied skills to work in the industry.”

 

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