In Translogic 16
we spend some quality time with Greg "Gadget" Abbott. Don't let Gadget's modest demeanor, solid work ethic and Dali Mustache fool you, for he's a complex guy.
For one thing, he's an ordained minister and occasionally performs weddings and funerals for friends. He studied computer programming at UCLA and performed in a dance group. He's also won 10 Guinness World Records for engineering and fabricating, built props for big Hollywood movies like Batman, Castaway and Spiderman, plus he's constructed many large public art sculptures. And y
ou'd never know it now, but the entire garage completely burned to the ground in 2008, so what you see in episode 4.4 is sort of like Left Coast Electric 2.0.
Gadget's real passion is proving that electric cars can be efficient and fun. In fact, he's built a car that fully embodies that passion, the 1957 Porsche Speedster replica you saw in the video. But in this case the gas burning boxer engine has been replaced by electric motors, lithium batteries and regenerative AC motors. The result is a fun-to-drive sports car with a real-world 100-mile range.
Left Coast Electric also does conversions. The cost runs between $20,000-$30,000 just for the conversion, if you supply the car. However, Gadget and Left Coast are working on a new kind of electric motor that could qualify for government incentives, which he hopes would eventually drop the conversion cost below $9,000. Any car Left Coast converts can be charged on 110- or 220-volt power so you can simply plug it in anywhere without the need for the extra expense or installation of a purpose-built charger. The on-board battery management system keeps things in check so no matter where you plug it in, the batteries and motors will not be damaged.
As cool as all this sounds, keep in mind that his converted Porsche Speedster replica is a bit of a trick because it's a best case scenario. The Porsche is lightweight, with manual steering, manual brakes and no air conditioning, ABS, airbags or crumple zones. The same is true for the Triumph Spitfire he previously converted. In order to include those convenience and safety features, the type many average commuters would expect, the car becomes heavier and more complex and that means it's more expensive to build or convert. Power equipment like windows, steering, brakes and air conditioning need motors or hydraulic pumps and those things add weight. More weight means the need for more battery cells to maintain that appealing 100-mile range.
While cars like the Chevy Volt will clearly appeal to the mainstream, the limited appeal of converted electric cars could work in favor of independent shops like Left Coast. Cars that are small and light make for better converted electrics partly because they're cheaper to convert. The bonus is that small, light cars are also the most fun to drive. Left Coast Electric is currently working on a conversion kit for the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which sounds like a worthwhile endeavor. Figure it this way, take the price of a nicely equipped Miata and add the maximum $30,000 conversion price and you're looking at a car that's roughly half the cost of a Tesla roadster but with about the same performance and range.
If you want to read more about Gadget's eclectic past or check into having your car converted, visit the company's web site at www.leftcoastelectric.com