As the open source revolution continues to gain momentum, websites like Kickstarter are popping up everywhere. This week’s kickstarter of the week comes from the site, indiegogo, which is similar to the namesake of this series, except that the funding is provided, regardless of a successful campaign. The EZ-EV is a simple-to-assemble, three-wheel, electric car kit. Basically, anybody can build, improve, and maintain their own electric car.
The surge of open source design has changed the way the world views technology. “There are too many people focused on patenting something to make a million dollars without any consideration of the impact,” explains Gary Krysztopik, designer of the EZ-EV. After exploring the worlds of converting combustion vehicles to electric and ultralight aviation, Krysztopik found himself turning to the world of electric vehicles. “I played with a ¼ scale car frame model using carbon fiber, then I started looking at fiberglass tubing because it was non-conductive.”
Eventually, the idea for a kit with precut panels that form a car frame came to light. “I want anybody to be able to build these by themselves from scratch. Instead of multimillion dollar production plants and stamped steel presses, anyone can build these with a $10K (or less) CNC router.” Krysztopik explains that the electric part of the car is “shockingly simple,” while the mechanical aspects presented more of a challenge. “There are no challenges to connecting batteries together, plugging them into an off-the-shelf controller, and connecting that to an electric motor. The only challenges for me were the mechanical ones; I learned to TIG weld, the self-taught CAD was frustrating, and the belt drive system and front end geometry was a learning experience.”
So, what makes the EZ-EV different than corporate electric cars? Krysztopik says, “Five billion dollars. That’s what Nissan put into the Leaf; with teams of engineers, over many years, with very sophisticated tools and facilities. I built a simple EV in less than a year, by myself, in my garage, with my own money. You can’t even begin to compare the sophistication of the designs, but what’s wrong with simple? Indefinitely maintainable?”
Utilizing the “Keep It Simple Stupid” or KISS ideal, Krysztopik has managed get major portions of his vehicle designed and working, but the EZ-EV is far from complete. “I haven’t put much detailed thought beyond getting a prototype built and getting the first batch of vehicles on the road.” As the plans ferment, Krysztopik also hopes to offer support for others to setup manufacturing, and possibly franchise build assist centers that can offer a variety of parts, kits, and complete vehicles, along with training and builder assist programs. “I’d like to be a part of a growing open source community that takes the designs further and produces bicycles, scooters, trikes, cars, trucks, trailers and even boats and aircraft. This is a disruptive technology and it deserves disruptive thinking.”
As with any new design, there are always skeptics and false impressions. Krysztopik explains, “By far the biggest challenge is overcoming the nauseatingly prevalent misconceptions, negative propaganda, and outright lies about electric vehicles.” Though his current version looks a little out-of-sorts on the road, proof is certainly in the pudding as the design continues to improve.
If Krysztopik’s campaign is funded, he plans to buy a desktop CNC and 3D printer. “I’ll be doing a lot of CAD work and ¼ scale fabrication.” He also plans to parallel the ¼ scale effort with destructive sample testing of subsections of the frame to get a feel for the strength. “I would make a full-size frame as quickly as possible just for fitment and ergonomics.” With a lot of interest and support brewing, Krysztopik hopes to add layers of experience and sophistication to the design process. “I think I may be able to get a vehicle on the road in about six months with funding to cover tools, parts, and materials.” That estimate is if Krysztopik is left without any assistance, which seems to be far from the case. “I dream big, but with others involved, this could get very big.”
To support the EZ-EV Open Source Electric Car visit http://www.indiegogo.com/zwheelz.