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Kirk Smith converts gas-powered car to electric

9:41 PM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
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By Art Holliday

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - The idea came from the internet. Kirk Smith, a senior at John Burroughs School saw a YouTube video describing how to turn a conventional car into an electric car. He thought it'd be a cool thing to try. His parents needed convincing.

"My parents are pretty supportive of me in most everything I do," said Smith.

How do you say no to a son who got a perfect score of 36 on his ACT? When Kirk Smith told his parents he wanted to build an electric car, his father was skeptical.

"I was still not interested because he's too busy and I didn't want it my garage," said Dale Smith.

Dad gave in, and Kirk went to Craigslist in search of a car that didn't run.

"Cars that don't run are a lot cheaper than cars that run," said Kirk.

He located a beat up Honda CRX with 197,000 miles on it in Elsah, Ill., sold for $600. Time to go to work.

"Take everything out that you don't need, the engine, the radiator, the exhaust manifold, the whole exhaust line," he said.

It took a year of trial and error, plus a half a dozen eight volt golf cart batteries, before last week's maiden voyage of the electric Honda in the parking lot at John Burroughs School.

Smith says he learned a lot during the last year. His welding skills have improved and his problem solving was tested.

"Kind of like pushing through and finding creative solutions to problems that we had absolutely no idea how to solve," said Smith.

There is more fine-tuning and tweaking ahead, with the goal of reaching 35 miles an hour. If that's accomplished, Smith hopes to take the electric car to college in a few months to drive around Tulsa, Okla.

Smith has an academic scholarship to the University of Tulsa to study mechanical engineering. It's likely his electric car impressed the scholarship committee.

"I'd love to take this to school with me because I don't want to do this much work and not be able to drive it," he said.


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