New Zealand Grandma Builds Her Own EV To Own Big Oil

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An article in The Guardian shows us that you don’t need $50,000 to buy an EV, even in this market. A grandmother in New Zealand found herself mad at oil companies, and one day she decided that she wanted to be done giving them her hard-earned money, so she worked with a friend to build her own EV.

“You do have to be a little bit mad,” Rosemary Penwarden said. “I want to thank the oil companies for the motivation.”

She picked up a 1993 Honda from a wrecking yard and had it towed to her house. She removed the gas engine herself, and then worked with a friend (he’s an engineer, which didn’t hurt) to convert the old car to run on electric power. The total cost was about $15,000, which is pretty good for an EV conversion.

She readily admits that it’s not something everyone can do, because it’s very time consuming, and time is money. But she and her friend (her friend says he has done at least 7 other cars) do this to make a point about recycling and the adoption of electric vehicles. She thinks that most people would probably want to just buy an EV, but that doing conversions on larger commercial trucks that run around town could be not only financially viable, but also better for the environment.

“Just to be able to show that it can be done is a priceless thing,” she told The Guardian. “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.”

Why Her Thinking Makes A Lot Of Sense

For daily drivers, it’s probably not worthwhile to go through all of that trouble. Used EVs that are head-and-shoulders above a 1993 beater with an electric motor can be had for less than what she paid for her conversion, for one. The other issue is that you’ve got to put in a lot of time, and time is indeed money that you don’t make doing something else.

For an enthusiast car, I can see both sides of that. It sure would be cool to have the cars of yesteryear with modern power and torque, especially something like a VW bug. I’m seriously considering doing this myself, and I have Herbie’s plate number on a Jetta in my state, waiting for a bug to put it on again. At the same time, I don’t have anything against enthusiasts who want to keep an older car completely stock, as that is going to be a very low volume thing in the future and collectibles that are true to the original are pretty cool.

For commercial vehicle, EV conversions can be a great idea. If you’ve got a lot of money invested in a big vehicle with specialized equipment, starting completely over can be extremely expensive. Repowering equipment, especially when a combustion engine is on its last legs and needs rebuilt anyway, can be a great money-saving move.

I hope that her project helps promote that idea going forward.

Featured image: A screenshot from Rosemary Penwarden’s Twitter account, showing off the work.


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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1954 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba