Michael Bream’s original down to the oxidized paint 1965 VW twin cab pickup is what auto racers call a “sleeper.” Sleepers are cars that look slow and drive fast. Bream’s vintage VW qualifies by appearing slower than a sit down gas mower, while having the ability to quietly pin you to your seat like a verbose muscle car from the same era. The reason for this lies under the hood, where a solar-charged electric motor is prepared for all internal combustion challengers.
Bream, whose fascination with non-polluting transportation led him to found Gravity Skateboards, where he chased adrenaline-charged free rides for 22 years, before opening his auto conversion factory, EV West. It is here that many classic cars are unshackled from their internal combustion components and sparked back to life through the miracle of electricity.
In the EV West garage awaiting the surgery are: VW Vans, Bugs, BMW’s, Porches and the perfect symbol of moving back to the future, a DeLorian.
According to Bream, “We are only beginning to explore electronic vehicles, but quickly nearing the point where a truck similar to the Ford 150, can be driven without any tailpipe emissions. At some point the resistance some people have to electric cars won’t matter anymore since they will simply be cheaper and better in the same way the CD is the vinyl record.”
Those who consider the electric car DOA might be surprised to realize that EV world leader, Tesla, is making about 6,000 cars a week, and will release a model with a six- to seven-hundred mile range. EV West makes no pretense of competing with the giants. Eighteen solar panels line their comparatively small roof, providing enough juice for these Frankenwagens to travel about 150 miles per charge, a number they expect will quadruple.
Many parts like lithium batteries and electronic motors are salvaged from sources like their favorite donor, Tesla. While driving an electronic vehicle costs about one sixth of a gas-powered one, getting to that point will set you back upwards of $15,000.
Aside from the obvious, one of the pluses of electronic vehicles for Bream is his ability to pursue a guilt-free speed love affair. When I cruised PCH in Solana Beach with him recently, he stomped on the accelerator and chirped, “I can do that whenever I like without any excessive noise, or environmental impact.”
Before you tow your garaged Karmann Ghia to the EV West factory, however, know that there is a three-and-a-half-year waiting list for conversions. Those enthusiasts who would rather do it themselves might check YouTube under electronic car conversions, or buy one of the more than 40 how-to books on the topic. Instructions cover vehicles everything from high-performance race cars to $600 dollar half-dead Geo Metros with $50 forklift motors. While these clunkers top out around 45 MPH, they are perfect for short, non-polluting trips around town.