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High-voltage hot rods cruising into electric vehicle conversions

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

BOCA RATON —

Most people think of an electric car as similar to a golf cart. They perceive it putts along at a slow speed and doesn’t go very far on a charge.

Andrew McClary, Alex Berry and Brant Cohen, partners in Boca Raton-based High Voltage Hot Rods, which takes classic cars and converts them to performance-based electric cars, are out to educate people about today’s electric car.

The cars they are converting or plan to convert, such as the ‘66 Corvair, the ‘66 Mustang and the ‘57 Thunderbird, provide a nostalgic appeal to car buffs. They use either an old car, or a reproduction of the classic car. It’s also about speed. Many of the vehicles have the ability to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds.

“We take the cars and customize them. We don’t produce the cars here. It’s similar to any other custom hot rod shop that would put in a V8 engine. Instead of putting in a V8, we put in an electric motor,” McClary said. “We make the electric drive trains.”

McClary, 45, of Boca Raton, a web designer with an architecture degree, started building electric vehicles five years ago as a hobby. Six months ago, he launched the company with Cohen, 59, of Boca Raton, a mechanic and owner of Brant’s Automotive Inc. for 28 years, and Berry, 51, of Boynton Beach, a marketer and television producer.

“I did not want to do electric cars until the parts had come to a certain level of quality so that we could build cars that did not look like science experiments,” McClary, the company’s CEO and lead designer, said recently from Brant’s auto shop, where they work on the cars. “In the last two years, the parts have matured.”

McClary converted a 1968 GT-40 replica, which he now calls the EVGT-40 and drives every day. It contains 54 individual batteries with a total voltage of 180.

Lithim batteries, similar to those used in cell phones and laptops require less space than the old-style lead acid batteries. A $10,000 lithium battery pack lasts about 10 years. But the cars require no oil changes or tuneups, and run quietly and without vibrations. The cost to convert the vehicles to electric is $20,000 to $30,000.

Berry said, “We are bringing sexy back to electric cars.”

Cohen, who is also an amateur race car driver, said he became excited about the hot rod-style electric car after taking a ride in McClary’s.

“I don’t want a Camry with an electric motor. A hot rod or sports car with an electric motor is a dream,” Cohen said.

The vehicles can be driven up to 120 miles on one charge that costs about $3, Berry said. Ninety percent of Americans drive fewer than 40 miles per day.

Interest in fast electric vehicles is growing through such organizations as the National Electric Drag Racing Association. The White Zombie, a 1972 electric Datsun 1200, the first street legal electric car to run a 10-second quarter mile, as well as other electric cars, are beating gasoline-powered cars.
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