Last fall, we spoke with Paul Pearson, the man behind the Lola EV (above) from Electric Custom Cars, at the Santa Monica Alt Car Expo. The Lola, a sort of Tesla kit car, seems innocent enough, but Pearson recently got himself into trouble with the City of Santa Monica for his electric car work. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, SMPD began a sting operation against Pearson in December that resulted in two citations, one for allegedly remanufacturing cars without a state license and the other for not getting a business license from the City of Santa Monica. As part of the sting, two undercover officers discussed converting a gas-only Ford Thunderbird to electric power with Pearson, Pearson agreed, which led to over a dozen local law enforcement officers storming his garage. Pearson is willing to admit he operated without a license, but will fight against the remanufacturing claim, telling the paper (and the police) that the vehicle, a small one-seater, is "legally manufactured as a specially constructed vehicle." The City contends the charges result from the Thunderbird conversion. We offer some clarification to the mess after the jump.
[Source: Santa Monica Daily Press, Santa Monica Mirror]
Pearson told AutoblogGreen that the complaint that was issued to him lists the serial number of the single seater. The Thunderbird is "an iffy issue" because it doesn't exactly exist. Pearson said that the California Highway Patrol told him that he would not need to recertify the fictitious Thunderbird if all he did was add and electric motor and batteries. Smog certification places can certify EVs as pure electric vehicles. "That is our defense on the Thunderbird charge." The single-seater was certified, insured and has been so for two years. "We'll beat them in court in a matter of seconds."
Pearson and the City went to arraignment last Wednesday, at which time the prosecutor asked for an extra six weeks to come to a settlement. "This guy is used to doing mass DUIs and is used to doing more pleas than trials," Pearson told us. "We're not settling. We want to draw a line in the sand"
That line has to do with the defining what changes are allowed by the California Vehicle Code. As regular readers know, there is a vibrant homebrew community converting vehicles to run on electrons instead of gasoline, and Pearson said the Southern California EV community is up in arms about the charges. "We believe that Detroit is not going to be coming out with a full-speed electric vehicle any time soon," he said, and said he sees this case as a way to define what homebrewers are allowed to do. Part of that means continuing work on the poor man's Tesla. "Right now, I'm getting the Lola ready for certification," Pearson said. "I'm still working on electric cars."