Dave Cloud’s Super Aerodynamic Electric Car, the Dolphin

by Benjamin Jones on February 1, 2011

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Infrequently do we find a homebuilt car that is well-designed, aesthetically appealing, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive. In Dave Cloud’s Dolphin — originally discussed (with many more photos) in the EcoModder forum — we find that all our expectations for a homebuilt EV are surpassed. That’s probably because Dave has had his fair share putting together electric cars, having done over 45 conversions.

While the Dolphin may look like nothing you’ve ever seen before, the base vehicle is a 1997 Geo Metro, one of the classical examples of frugal driving. There are plenty of examples of Geo Metros being converted, but none are quite as unique as the Dolphin (if you need more examples, check out our very own ForkenSwift).

The Dolphin was put together for a miserly $3,000, but can do impressive things for the meager amount of money that was used to create it. Running on used batteries, the car managed a 70mph top speed and overall range of upwards of 80 miles, despite the fact that curb weight is well over 3000 pounds. The Dolphin is designed for highway cruising, lacking a transmission and geared to top out at 71 miles an hour. While this does allow for efficient highway cruising, it makes low speed operation and acceleration inefficient, dragging down the vehicle’s overall impressive numbers.

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Here’s a quote direct from Dave Cloud on the comprises that were made to keep the project under budget:

Another thing I would like to clarify is that my goal was to build a vehicle that can go 200 miles on a single charge with a speed of 60-65 mph for 85% of the miles, for under $3,000. I accomplished this goal. Because of my $3,000 limitation I made a lot of compromises in the chassis design hoping that the aerodynamics of the vehicle would make up for those inefficiencies. Inefficiencies such as front wheel bearings that rumble, back tires that are 10 years old and misshapen, single speed dual series motors (that were $100), no re-gen and inexpensive Curtis controllers.

Using the conversion factor listed on Wikipedia (33.4 kWh/gal) and Dave Cloud’s own estimates of power usage, the Dolphin clocks in at an amazing 214MPGe, beating everything on the road (and everything likely to be on the road in the near future). While this is an amazing vehicle, it’s unfortunate it was built for a specific EV distance challenge and will probably not be explored in depth in the future.

Here are the Dolphin’s in depth stats (found on EValbum):

Basic Vehicle: 1997 Geo Metro

Motor: Advanced DC 203-09-4001 Series Wound DC 2X “Shorty’ version of typical 8” ADC motor

Drivetrain: 8″ ADC motor on each rear wheel, with independent battery packs and controllers

Controller: Curtis 1209B-6402 72 Volt, 400A

Batteries: 60 Interstate Various, 12.00 Volt, Lead-Acid, Flooded Group 56 BLEM batteries, 33 lbs ea.

Voltage: 72V

Top Speed: 72 mph

Range: 200 miles

Watt Hours/mi: 162 wh/mi

Weight: 3,200 lbs

More information:





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1 DW Wood February 13, 2011 at 11:18 am

This thing looks awesome! And put together for $3,000 is incredible. Gives hope to us not so rich guys that an EV conversion can be affordable.

2 Dantes March 19, 2011 at 9:47 am

Great…riding around in a giant plastic Rubbermaid container on wheels at 70 mph with 8-10 gallons of battery acid and a half ton of lead plates.

Very eco friendly…and so safe, too!

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