Among all the people at a joint Bradenton-Sarasota event Thursday night promoting electric cars and charging stations at a do-it-yourself couple from Ft. Myers Beach stood out.
Jim and Bonita Greeson arrived at Burns Court Cinema in their 1971 Porsche 914 powered by lithium phosphate batteries, an RV power plug a two hair dryers.
“We haven’t stopped at a gas station in two years,” Jim Greeson said. “That’s what’s been so fun.”
Big-name manufacturers displayed their cars at the event, which premiered the one and only screening in Florida of A Chevrolet Volt (which Casey Key resident Stephen King drives), Nissan Leaf, Fisker Karma, Tesla Roadster and Nissan Altima hybrid racing car were all on display for folks to gander and ask questions. Portable car charging stations also provided some juice for the cars — except for the Greesons.
The Nissan Altima hybrid racecar actually a Sarasota project. The “Hot Rod Hybrid” is a collaboration between Nissan North America and Braille Battery to produce the concept of a “green” racecar. Using the Nissan Altima Hybrid Electric platform, the engineers at Braille Battery combined their racing knowledge and electrical expertise to create a production-based Hybrid Electric racecar.
Nissan provided the car to Braille for $1 to turn it into an electric hybrid racecar, said Blake Fuller, chief executive of Braille and driver of the Altima hybrid racecar. Additionally, every Indy Car in the Indianapolis 500 this year will have a Braille Battery, he said.
Still, local governments are trying to do-it-themselves, to a degree, to encourage and use electric vehicles.
"Sarasota County is going to have a charging station at the county admin building, and that's going to be a statement," said Ken Stokes of EcoTechnologies, a Sarasota-based solar power specialist and electric vehicle charging station provider. "City of Bradenton has one at city hall — that's a statement."
Sarasota County also switched to hybrid technology for its buses and fleet vehicles a few years ago has four plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to Nina Powers, Sarasota County sustainability outreach coordinator.
The City of Sarasota also has charging stations in the new and at the Newtown Public Library. Bradenton City Hall has two charging stations on First Avenue West. You can find more at getreadytampabay.org for stations throughout the region. Manatee Memorial Hospital also has a station.
For something like Sarasota and Bradenton and beyond Florida borders to have more people use electric cars, Greeson said perception, not these charging stations, is what will have to change.
“The key is perception of the public and government intervention into the marketplace,” he said. “I built this car for one-third the price of a Leaf.”
Part of that, he concedes, is because of lack of a union-mandated wage, profit targets and overhead.
One big key he points to is the plug that charges the Porsche — it the same that RVs use. The RV plug can be bought at Walmart or Home Depot for $15 compared to the government-standard plug and pack that costs $2,000 to produce.
“Why couldn’t the government choose that? It was already there?” he said.
Greeson said he doesn’t have a car background. He’s just able to do plumbing around the house and hang pictures.
“My contribution was my blow dryers I donated to the car for heat,” Bonita Greeson said.
That’s because the electric cars don’t throw off heat that can be used to warm the cabin like a gas-powered car, Greeson explained.
Car runs at about 150 amps on highway speeds and 30 amps on the highway while the 500 amps worth of batteries provide enough power for acceleration, Jim Greeson said.
Greeson claims he can leave his car lights on for 24-hours a day for 30 days until the batteries would die. The batteries have a 3,000- to 5,000-cycle lifespan, which could provide 500,000 worth of driving miles.
“I believe the car would be rusted out and I would be dead,” he said.
“I’m still going to be here,” Bonita Greeson joked.