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Two teens convert Porsche to electric in six weeks

What do you get when you mix two ambitious 18-year-olds with one Porsche and a bunch of parts?
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Sean Kleinschmidt (L) and Jim Danielson (R) with the converted
1987 Porsche 924S

Jim Danielson of Arlington Heights and Sean Kleinschmidt of Prospect Heights converted a 1987 Porsche 924S into an electric vehicle. And they did it in just six weeks. When asked what motivated them to build an electric car Jim offered; “We built an electric go-cart and it was time to do something bigger.”

The car was picked up in St. Charles on May 22, 2009 and it was on the road under electric power on July 6!

Their “nothing will stop us” determination manifested itself as 40 to 60 hour workweeks. They started most days after their noon to 3 p.m. chemistry class at Harper College often ending at 11 p.m. or midnight. Additionally, Jim held down two small, part-time jobs for extra cash.

The young men did all of the work themselves often after instruction or advice from people with the technical expertise they needed. Forums on the Internet are dedicated to electric car conversion and 924 Porsches. Support came from family, friends and strangers exposed to and interested in the project. All were a huge source of assistance with troubleshooting, parts and how-to information.

Danielson and Kleinschmidt used a 10” diameter electric motor from a large Caterpillar fork lift, slightly modified, and a dozen 12v marine deep cycle batteries. They designed, machined and fabricated many needed parts to adapt the motor to the Porsche’s drive-train. Other work included welding battery frames and adapting the car's wiring to its new task while maintaining all the normal car features, including lights, with the ignition key still turning the car on or off.

Except for air conditioning and power steering, all the original factory equipment is functional. It has power windows, radio, heater, power disc brakes, sunroof and a five speed stick. The steering was converted to factory manual rack and pinion. It still has finishing touches to be wrapped up such as carpeting the cover over the eight batteries that occupy the area of the former back seat.

Driving range when fully “tuned up” is expected to be 50 miles, making it a practical commuter car. The onboard charger will recharge the batteries in about six hours connected to a standard 120 Volt 15 Amp household outlet or for faster charging at 230 Volts. 

Sean described the driving experience; “So far we have driven the electric Porsche at 50 MPH and it behaves like any other car. We expect it to have a top seed of about 70 MPH.”

The project cost about $6,000 not counting the $500 for the car itself. The Illinois EPA electric vehicle conversion rebate of $4000 made the project financially feasible. Jim’s parents enabled the financing and Sean’s parents provided the garage and workshop.

Jim and Sean graduated from John Hersey High School this past June where they were on the robotics team, won the Gold award and an American Nuclear Society Award at the Illinois state science fair for their Flow Battery project with friend Aaron Michalczuk and completed “Project Lead the Way”. They are freshmen at Purdue University in engineering this August.

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