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Plug In Your Car

By Jim Rendon

At first glance, Mike's Auto Care looks like any other independently owned garage. Cars in various stages of repair and disrepair line the walls. But on closer inspection, something important is missing: engines.

Mike Slominski, the owner of the San Mateo auto shop (650.343.8801), has been pulling engines from cars and replacing them with electric motors for a decade.

Conversion is not cheap, but in the long run it may pay for itself. Slominski charges about $14,000 to do the conversion. Each one is different and requires a lot of planning. Thanks to the batteries, the electrical system weighs more than a combustion system and has different kinds of space requirements.

But this is hardly money thrown to the wind. Regular maintenance chores like oil changes, tune-ups, timing belts and the myriad of other problems that help mechanics with their boat payments virtually disappear. The whole thing runs on an electric motor only a little larger than a loaf of bread. Also, it costs roughly $.02 a mile to charge up, compared with $.05 to $.07 a mile for the average car.

Will Beckett, president of the Silicon Valley Electric Auto Association, drives a converted Chevy S-10 Blazer. The Blazer tops out at 65 miles per hour and will cover up to 60 miles before it needs another charge.

With the General Motors EV1 now a fixture on the freeway, interest in electric cars is on the rise. "You see electric vehicles popping up all over," Beckett says. "Just the other day I went to Orchard Supply Hardware, and there were three electric cars in the parking lot." Yours could be next.

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Streamlined Living: Pare down and live simply.

Put Up Yer Dukes: Don't get mad, get even.

Cruising: Transit made simple.
    The Rail World
    Get Out Of Jail Free
    Moot Commute

Soul Relief: Free your inner self.

Get in on the Gold Rush: Grab a fistful of cash and join the party.

Domestic Bliss: Make your house into a home.

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From the March 16-22, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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