‘A bit mad’ Woman builds her own solar panel-powered EV for just £12,500
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Rosemary Penwarden has been driving the self-converted electric car for the past three years and says that building the vehicle is one of the “best things I’ve ever done”. The project took around eight months and £12,500 to complete.
A New Zealand native, Ms Penwarden bought a 1993 wreck to act as the basis for the EV and enlisted the help of a friend, Hagen Bruggemann, a refrigeration engineer who assisted Penwarden in converting her automobile to electric power.
They removed the original combustion engine herself and replaced it with an electric motor and gearbox.
She then placed batteries into the front and back of the car — 24 under the bonnet and 56 in the boot.
The car is now fully road legal and is even covered by a warranty.
Ms Penwarden said: “You do have to be a little bit mad. I want to thank the oil companies for the motivation.”
She originally had the idea when some people taunted her about using a petrol car when she joined protests against deep-sea drilling in the Southern Ocean.
She said: “I got kind of sick of that, it was kind of a funny thing that they were trying to say. I thought ‘well, actually I know someone who has just made an electric car’.
She has now travelled some 23,000km (14 miles) in the car.
She said: “I’ve saved six tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere which is really lovely and it makes me feel good.”
While Ms Penwarden believes the car will pay itself off – she had once spent up to $100 (£75) a week on petrol for commuting – she says it wasn’t a cost-saving exercise and called on the Government to support conversions. She explained: “Just to be able to show that it can be done is a priceless thing.
“The biggest thing is to help stop the biggest polluters as soon as possible – and nothing that we can do as individuals I think matters quite as much as that.”
She is now able to charge the car fully at home with solar power.
Mr Bruggemann, who helped Penwarden convert her car, has now converted about eight cars to electric engines.
He said: “You can talk as much as you want about all this environmental crap, but you have to implement it.”
Converting a diesel truck, he says, would pay off within five years.
“Really, the polluters should be paying – I don’t see why they’re not,” he added.
Now, Ms Penwarden is looking at possible conversion kits for fossil fuel vehicles.
She explained: “It’s part of the circular economy they [the government] keep talking about and it means instead of bringing in a whole lot of new stuff we can use what we’ve got, so I’m working on that right now.”
Penwarden says the time and money she devoted to converting her car isn’t possible for everyone – “I’m in a very privileged place” – but as the world adapts to the climate crisis, she wanted to illustrate the possibility.
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