By on February 26, 2013

Normally, I wouldn’t consider an 18-year-old Suzuki Cultus badged by a now-defunct GM marque to be worthy of inclusion in this series, but this particular example— which I found at my favorite Denver self-service wrecking yard— has been converted to electric power and is thus sort of interesting.
The valuable stuff that electric-car geeks like to keep (i.e., the electric motor, control circuitry, and batteries) is all gone, but you can see that this setup used the Suzuki front-drive transaxle more or less intact.
It looks like there was some sort of electrical fire or maybe a big acid spill in the rear of the car at some point, judging from the pried-open-in-a-hurry hatch and melted insulation.
You don’t see many 400-amp ammeters and 180-volt voltmeters in junked econoboxes!
Now that you can buy genuine factory-made electric cars, these homemade jobs don’t quite make the statement they once did. Still, the guy who built this car is probably driving a different electric machine. Let’s hope it’s an electron-driven Triumph Stag.

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26 Comments on “Junkyard Find: Electric 1995 Geo Metro...”

  • avatar

    “It looks like there was some sort of electrical fire or maybe a big acid spill in the rear of the car at some point”

    Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?
    Oh no, it’s just that they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

  • avatar

    What a hack job to add that gauge. If that is an indication of the rest of the work no wonder it had some kind of catastrophic failure. The interior bits otherwise look brand new, can’t believe how good the seats look. Had the poor thing been left to burn gas, would probably have 2X miles. These has proven out to be shockingly serviceable and reliable.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Meh. Whatever happened to the brain-melting junkyard? Please, post some stuff from there!

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Using the stock transaxle is pretty common on homemade conversions. Just bolt the motor to an adapter plate and drive around in 2nd or 3rd gear all the time.

  • avatar

    Whoa, a manual transmission electric??

    • 0 avatar

      Manual transmission cars are favored for EV conversions for all of the same reasons that they make any engine-swap easier — it’s just easier to integrate the systems.

      Also, the kind of person who’s swapping engines around is probably willing to learn the 3rd pedal.

      I hear that manual transmission EVs are way easier to drive than the donor cars, because electric motors don’t idle, and because they have a lot of low-end torque, and because they have such a wide range of RPMs. I seem to remember that some people report just leave ’em in 2nd gear for driving around town, and you can just let off the gas at a stoplight.

      But, after driving the Leaf, I think I’d prefer it over a driveway-built “hot-rod” EV. The Leaf is a very nice car on its merits as a car, AND it’s a direct-drive EV with lots of low-end torque and enough leftover to keep up on the Intestate. Yeah, the limitations are real.

  • avatar

    I was VERY excited to do the “last days” short story on this one. However, I’m going to skip it, since my profiling research turned up the actual owner of this car.

    It was made by a company called REE-V or EVolve Electrics.

    You know what they say about truth vs fiction…

    • 0 avatar

      BTW, my story would have included a rude reminder of the power of hydrogen gas. That hatch doesn’t look like it was pried open. It looks like it was BLOWN open. The battery setup doesn’t appear to be well ventilated judging by the pics.

      • 0 avatar

        An even more rude reminder of the power of hydrogen can be found in the story of the USS Cochino (SS346) which was lost to a battery well explosion in Aug 1949. I once made an electric trike in the classroom and made sure the battery well was very open. Subs have very detailed ventilation in their battery wells or, they did. I think there is still a battery on Nucs in case the reactor scrams but not really up to date there.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, I hope nobody was in the car when it blew. Between the ear drum shattering pressure and the toxic gases, a person could get hurt.

    • 0 avatar

      EVolve set up shop in an old Ford dealership in Boulder, CO around 2009. I drove by it every day and often wondered with passing interest what exactly they did there. Tools and parts were always strewn about the showroom and clearly visible though the big glass windows. It seemed like a mad scientist’s workshop which is probably accurate after seeing what remains of the finished product!

      I was back in Boulder a few weeks ago and the old dealership is empty once again – probably hasn’t been for long considering EVolve’s prized prototype is now fresh crusher fodder.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the report!

        The car struck me as something that blew up, sat outside for awhile, judging by it’s neglected-looking appearance. Then it was hurriedly liquidated since they didn’t remove the nice wheels.

        I can just visualize the mad scientist now, ripping the components from this car amidst moving boxes. Likely he was depressed and angry at society for not embracing his electric cars, and blamed them for his failed business.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    My son’s neighbor in Connecticut converted a small Renault wagon…can’t remeber the model though.

  • avatar

    Years ago I was offered a 2 wheel drive, standard cab Ford Ranger for free….the little trucklet had a blown motor. I considered taking it and performing a conversion to electric. After I sussed it out, I decided against it. I would have spent thousands of dollars and probably hundreds of hours of labor. I would have ended up with a vehicle that had manual steering, manual brakes, no AC, no heat, and range of about 40 miles on a good day with a fresh battery pack. It would have been an interesting novelty, but not very practical.

    • 0 avatar

      I work on electric golf carts nearly every day that use these same lead-acid batteries. While they are pleasant and quiet to drive around in, they are an energy-waster, more expensive to operate, and require more maintenance than their gas counterparts. After 3 years, the degradation on the battery set is pretty excessive and we have to replace 6 batteries at $1200. This is on a golf cart that does stop and go all day. Running flat out in a standard automobile, I think would be harder on the set. You have to maintain water in all these batteries very often, as often as fueling a gas car. Except, you’re wearing eye protection and touching stuff covered in acid.

      I’m a fan of cars like the Volt, but these lead-acid DIY jobs are duds.

  • avatar

    Nice wheels.

  • avatar

    Those seats look very comfy. The rest of the car is complete rubbish!

    • 0 avatar

      In the early 2000s, I picked up a ’96 Metro with 20k miles for some ridiculous price that I couldn’t pass up (I think it was $1100). It was a surprisingly competent little econobox, even with the 3-cylinder engine. A good extra car, though I wouldn’t have been happy with it as an everyday car.

  • avatar

    back in my army days I was stationed in Germany on old M60 tanks that had 4 24 volt batteries under the floor. One day as we were tooling down the road they managed to catch fire. I couldn’t tell they were burning as I was driving with my head outside the hatch when my TC told me to pull over. The last thing I heard in my headset before they all bailed out was “put out the fire”. So I crawled out of the drivers hole and I couldn’t see a thing, toxic smoke seemed to set my lungs on fire and my eyes too. I crawled out of the tank, handed the fire extinguisher to the sarge and told him he never taught me how to do this job and he needed to show me. Needless to say the rest of my day was spent on the s***list. This tale is a close second to another story entitled, “Never Light a Cigarette While Driving a Tank on the Autobahn.”

  • avatar

    When I was a young man in Joplin, Mo, sometime between 1994 and 1996, a guy converted one of these 2 door Metros to air power. The movie theatre I worked at was in a 50’s era shopping center, and in the evenings after many of the stores and offices closed, the “inventor” would do test runs in the back parking lot. It had a compressed air tank mounted on the roof and you could see the two pistons working behind where the grill should have been. It had “Pneumatic Urban Commuter” painted on the side and he would literally fart around the parking lot at 20-30 mph.

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