A $672 electric car, built by two DIYers

by Benjamin Jones on January 30, 2008

$672 home built electric car

What do you get when you cross a Geo Metro with an electric forklift, a golf cart, and a bunch of used batteries? You get the “ForkenSwift” (see web site), a ridiculously inexpensive, home-built, street-legal electric car.

This battery powered grocery getter was built by Darin Cosgrove and Ivan Limburg, of Brockville, Ontario. The friends were looking for a project to do in Limburg’s new workshop, and set their sights on building an EV after reading about a couple of DIY electric car conversions on the web.

Since neither of them had tackled anything quite like this before, they were wary of breaking the bank on what amounted to a rolling science project with a questionable outcome. So they bought all their parts & supplies second hand, and scrounged a few for free. They even recovered some of their costs by selling left over parts as they went along…

  • They sold the Geo’s engine and its recently replaced gas tank through an online ad – you don’t need either of those in an EV!

The $500 donor forklift arrives by truck.

They caught a big break when it came time to get the car’s lead acid batteries.

“We met another EV owner who liked what we were doing, so he gave us a bunch of used batteries he had just replaced in his own EV,” says Cosgrove.

But the second hand lead has a downside: they probably could have doubled the distance the car could go on a charge if they had bought new.

Rear batteriesThe Metro’s small 48 volt battery pack is a major clue as to how they were able to keep costs so low: Cosgrove and Limburg built the car with ridiculously modest specs. With just eight 6 volt batteries and a motor controller from a golf cart, it’s an understatement to say the electric Metro doesn’t go very fast or very far.

But they say it does just fine as a neighbourhood runabout on the quiet streets of their small city. And by aiming low, they were able to avoid the pricier components and extra batteries needed for a more powerful, highway capable EV.

Their forklift motor driven Metro passed inspection and went on the road a few months ago. Since then it has gone more than 650 kilometers (400 miles) without using a drop of gas… or oil (hey – it was a 16 year old Geo engine after all).

Forklift motor installed on transmissionCosgrove reports a top speed of 65 km/h (40 mph), a range of 15 to 25 km (9 to 15 miles) on a charge, and says it costs about 3 cents per km (4.8 cents per mile) to run on renewably sourced, clean electricity. (For comparison, Limburg figures his gasoline powered compact pickup truck costs 12 cents per km to drive.)

While it’s fair to say the electric Metro’s performance won’t cause any worry over at Tesla Motors, you can also be sure its builders aren’t losing much sleep about car payments either.

More information about the $672 electric Metro:

Popularity: 87% [?]

{ 28 comments }

1 peakster January 31, 2008 at 3:19 pm

The Forkenswift never ceases to amaze me. Mostly because it’s accomplished what so many experienced automakers have deemed not possible in the real world. That and it looks to be in such great shape!

2 1hen2ducks February 3, 2008 at 8:51 am

My smelly SUV costs 7.5 cents per km. driven.

3 John Andrews February 3, 2008 at 9:07 pm

With no gasoline engine there is no hot water or hot exhaust to provide heating for comfort. I suppose that this vehicle will not be used for transportation in the winter. Or not very far needless to say.

4 Bilal February 6, 2008 at 11:54 am

I would love to do this to my beater for the summer months!

5 Hillary Short February 6, 2008 at 1:53 pm

This kind of a project is very inspiring to get started.
I do think that it is possible to make an even chaper car if you buy the parts from the car recycling centers.

6 drift February 28, 2008 at 8:17 pm

You can bet some one some where will put a stop on it. I have a friend who is a top notch mechanic and could do basically the same. Every time he gets a hold of some junk vehicles the law comes and gets them. I have been told that I can’t even buy a 96 truck to match mine from a junk yard just to keep for car parts -http://autobiz101.vox.com/- Some sort of business county bylaw. Laws like these local towns and county or just medieval. I wouldn’t mind doing that myself. That car makes a lot of sense.

7 PM March 13, 2008 at 12:56 pm

What a great thing they did by building that. Im so glad the technology is spreading, because EVs are truly superior. A new EV made by Zap will do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds!

8 BEVERLY SAASTAMOINEN March 19, 2008 at 6:24 am

WHERE CAN I BUY ONE OF THESE CARS?
LET ME KNOW. YOU SHOULD MASS PRODUCE.
YOU GUYS ARE BRILLANT.
THANKS,
BEV

9 mbrio April 17, 2008 at 7:17 am

I have an ’81 CJ5 Jeep that I would like to make electric or, more probably, hybrid. The only problem is that I don’t know much about these things. Is there any information you can give me about a place to start mining information about these technologies and how to do it? Thanks so much, in advance!

10 Matt April 29, 2008 at 8:49 pm

what was the rpm of the forklift pump?

11 john newman May 20, 2008 at 9:21 pm

I recall some time ago Mother Earth had an article about a guy in the USA who built a VW electric car.’
He used a starter moter fron an old jet fighter and adapted it directly to the bell housing.lead acid was his battery of choice and if my memory is correct the Beetle could accelerate well and it had a good turn of speed (100km/hr)
So check out the old editions of Mother Earth

12 Hotcars June 8, 2008 at 4:54 pm

I would say that is a cheap electric car. I would like to try and build one myself but want one that goes 55 to 65 miles hour atleast.

Great article and shows how someone can really build thier own electric car and not pay that much money. Now why can’t the auto makers make ones that do not cost a fortune.

13 Mike July 3, 2008 at 9:40 pm

I don’t get it. What’s with the bank of batteries? We have electrical systems in cars that give 12 volts initially, upped to 10’s of 1000’s of volts with the coil, and an AC alternator that will give more than 200 amps and DIY’ers want to use a bank of DC batteries. It just can’t be rocket science to run an AC electic motor for each wheel with the existing electrical system. At any rate if you want to use DC , remember any DC motor can be used as a motor OR a generator. It just depends on which end of the motor you supply the electricity.

14 Jerry July 6, 2008 at 6:33 pm

“Now why can’t the auto makers make ones that do not cost a fortune.”

They can, though it’s not worth their time, business and capitalism is about profit and greed, not people and ideas.

15 ebony July 8, 2008 at 5:51 pm

My father has a simular idea, he wants to get his name out there. Can you give him tips on how to do it.

ebony

16 WillG August 5, 2008 at 7:07 am

It is great to read about electric cars and how they are coming along.

I read a great article titled, “Electric Car Finds its Niche” at http://economicefficiency.blogspot.com/2008/08/electric-car-finds-its-niche.html

The article spells out why electric cars in London make sense.

17 Matt Richter August 7, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Mike, you’re missing lots of points. The coil ups voltage, but drops current. A more technical term is a pulse transformer, but it won’t drive an electric motor. Yes, and alternator can create several hundred amps (well, a big one can) but you need something to drive it. Yes, there are hub A/C motors, but they are far from cheap. This was an effort to make an all electric car for very, very low money. Not to have a gas engine run an alternator that powers hub-centric A/C motors. So you need the batteries as the electrical “gas tank”, it’s DC cause that the least expensive way to do it.

Matt

18 Larry Diesbach September 9, 2008 at 1:38 pm

That is awsome! you should do more of these cars and then sell them. A geo metro with a spent engine should be easy to come by. Awsome!!! congrants guys!!!

19 spear October 5, 2008 at 6:48 am

some one should try a hyundai accent!

20 spear October 5, 2008 at 6:57 am

Is anyone out there modding a car to be deisel hybrid? Say with a two cylinder kohler?

21 uboslav October 16, 2008 at 7:29 am

This is absolutely awesome! If a couple of guys can pull this off, that is pretty much proof that the corruption of the oil companies is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.
Imagine a free world with efficient devices and technology….

22 Electric car conversion kits October 18, 2008 at 12:24 am

What an awesome article I got my own site going on how to convert your own car into a electric hybrid

23 lucklucky December 3, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Sorry but where is “renewably sourced, clean electricity”? Electricty can be made by many means from Coal to Diesel to Nuke and of course solar/wind that still needs “unclean” energy to be made.

24 Games Car December 5, 2008 at 8:44 pm

What Kinda of Car do you drive?

25 Josh December 22, 2008 at 10:34 am

A very good step by step guide on how to build an electric car can be found at:
http://www.didik.com/ev_build.htm

26 George - Build Electric Car February 2, 2009 at 8:00 am

This is an excellent story. I always find people are interested in a conversion for under $3000 that will allow them to drive as fast as they do with their current gas car. I hope prices can drop to that price, but at this time, I don’t think it’s possible.

For $700 the car is great for going around town, but most people want to travel long distances. The people who really want to convert are those who have the long commutes. High gas prices hurts them the most… Of course with the drop in price everyone’s happy 🙂

27 Jeroen van Agt February 15, 2009 at 11:23 am

Great story how easy it is to build your own electric car. You would wonder why there aren’t more companies which can convert your own car into an electric one.

A nice overview of electric cars can be found on the renewable energy website OliNo.

28 Green Machine42 February 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm

I think it’s great that these guys built their own electric car. Maybe one day we won’t need to use forklift parts to build one.

Wheego Electric Cars is officially launching its U.S. dealer network. The first car will be the Wheego Whip, which is most not anything like a smart for two. Wheego has an exciting line of electric cars. My driving experience was — I could not drive it enough.

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