Environmental science group works to restore 70s car

Electric Car

Matt Mead

Electric Car

Receiving a hand-me-down 1970s car with manual windows and old analog buttons might not sound that appealing, but the Applied Environmental Science group was thrilled to get this one. The small campus group, made up of graduate student Matt Oehrlein, junior Garrison Hommer, senior Morgan LaMoore and group president senior Adam Malovrh focuses on ways to reduce carbon emissions in the environment. This past spring, AES was given the Endura, a 1976 prototype of a battery-operated car. Since it was a prototype, itâÄôs literally the only one of its kind. Now, AES is working to restore the car to its full electric capabilities. The Endura was created by Johnson Controls Inc. as a model for future electric vehicles. The idea never quite took off, and the Endura sat for years untouched and in nonworking order. Students in AES received the car from Chuck Knierim, owner of Wildrose Farms , who found it before it was set to be sold at a benefit auction. Knierim, who works with several environmental groups on campus, gave the car to AES as a project and advertising tool, complete with original brochures in the glove box. Because it had been unused and exposed to the elements for so long, Malovrh said it also came with several rusted and warped pieces of wiring, and a few rodent skeletons. The group spent much of its first few meetings ripping out old wiring and insulation and looking over circuit blueprints. The difference between the Endura and a hybrid vehicle, such as a Toyota Prius, is that the Endura runs strictly on batteries, while hybrids rely partly on gas. The Endura would operate on 22 batteries, each weighing 70 pounds, that would be placed down the center of the vehicle. âÄúThe car is pretty light until the batteries go in,âÄù Oehrlein said. The car would need to be charged for several hours and could typically drive for 20 to 50 miles before needing to be recharged. The problem with fully battery-operated vehicles, LaMoore said, is that for their intended use, they are extremely costly. âÄúItâÄôs not currently feasible,âÄù he said. But once lithium ion batteries gain popularity and become more common, he said a feasible fully battery-operated car is not too far off. Once the Endura is restored, AES will return it to Knierim, who plans to use it to transport products for his business. If things go according to plan, the Endura will comfortably seat four adults, and the batteries will last for several years. The group figures the full restoration of the car will cost approximately $12,100. The Clean Energy Resource Team, a Minnesota-based technology research funding group, recently gave AES a $5,000 grant, and the group also received $1,000 from Keen Footwear. Some of the money, however, is still being distributed through a new University system, so the group is waiting to order new parts for the vehicle. Pushing back the original deadline of full restoration at the end of the fall semester, the group is now trying to make progress on the car one week at a time. AES is also trying hard to actively recruit more members. âÄúWe want to use the car as an example to bring in new members,âÄù Malovrh said.