RENTON PATTERSON: Pembroke, Ontario, Canada
High school teacher builds EVs with his students... over 30 years ago
"I was educated as an electrical engineer
and after a stint at Canadian General Electric, turned to teaching
technical courses at Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ontario. I
specialized in Electrical Technology.
My students, as part of their learning in 1973, converted an old 1950s MG sports car to electric drive using two surplus aircraft motors and a chain drive. The car was not licensed for the road, and drew some criticism from the phys ed teacher as the boys tore up his cinder track for test drives... It used four 12-volt batteries from the custodian's floor scrubber. The car was known as 'ThunderVolt 1.'
In 1976, a new crew of my students designed the conversion for an electric boat with a molded plywood hull. 'ThunderVolt 2' used a 5 hp second-hand lift-truck motor in the bow with belt drive (in order to try different speeds) and two drive shafts to 8” propellers. Contactor control with a selector switch provided four speeds forward and 2 in reverse through ten power contactors.
In 1976 a new team - with a good deal of background experience available, designed the conversion of a new 1977 Dodge Aspen station wagon to electric drive, naturally named 'ThunderVolt 3.' It used a 25 hp 120-volt Mawdsleys motor (from England) and 26 six-volt Varta batteries for a 156-volt supply, which fed a Sevcon mine locomotive controller. Students used the school’s GE 115 computer for major design calculations (I still have the punched cards). The car provided personal transportation for six years and matched the calculated performance in all areas. Top speed was 62 mph. Range: 60 miles at 30 mph and 40 miles at 45 mph.
'ThunderVolt 3' made appearances at an Energy Lifestyle Show, won an electric car rally (in its class) sponsored by Ontario Hydro, and appeared in many newspapers and magazines. Along with other interested parties in Ottawa (150 km from Pembroke), we formed the Canadian Electric Vehicle Association in the summer of 1979 which continues to this day as the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa and a member of EAA.
In the 1980s EVCO sponsored an electric vehicle construction course. The star pupil, Richard Lane, has stayed with the Council to this day and is now experienced in electric car conversions, having done many over the years for himself and others. And our family still commutes from a boat dock on a local lake to our water-access cottage in an electric boat."