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University of Calgary students turning vintage car into electric vehicle


Ratik Kapoor is a University of Calgary student who wants to create a world-wide electric vehicle culture.

To help achieve that, he's formed a team called Relectric made up of more than 40 students from various faculties. They're starting off with a 1966 Volvo station wagon and stripping out the old engine, replacing it with an electric motor.

"I think what makes us different is that we're not just doing a conversion for the sake of doing the conversion," he said.

"We're tying all the different aspects of the conversion together because we want it to be something that people want to drive at the end of the day, we want this to be people's daily driver."

Kapoor and the team face many challenges in taking aftermarket conversion pieces and connecting them all so driving a converted vehicle feels more like operating a brand new, electric vehicle for the cost of a good used car. 

There are other companies converting gas powered vehicles but Relectric wants to make the process easier.

"If you convert just any car out there, you might not have the same level of integration," said Kapoor.

"Like a touchscreen that has everything, all the bells and whistles that you'd expect from a car today, that's what we do different from everybody else that's out there."

Kapoor has broken the students into five teams specializing in mechanical, electrical, software, geomatics and geospatial positioning.

Brooke Kindleman is heading the software team and is in her fourth year in the university's software engineering program.

She didn't know much about cars when she started but knows a lot about computers. She's tasked with connecting all the technology so information is easily accessible for the driver.

"What we are able to do is make a display that is very close to an existing display," said Kindleman.

"So it's not a shock for somebody who gets into that vehicle but at the same time you have the features that you want an electric car, you're able to see what's your battery discharge rate, you know, how far is the nearest charging station."

The project began in late 2019 and teams worked separately on their tasks.

"As you're starting out on this car a lot of the teams were able to work individually," said Kindleman.

"If you're working on a part, like the mechanical team was able to work separately from every other team, but as we're getting into it and we're now reaching the point where we're having the different teams going OK, we actually need to connect our stuff."

Kalen Cameron just finished his second year of chemical engineering and heads the mechanical team. He says it's been a challenging project so far.

"We have had to strip down (the car), take out all the seats, the engine bay and stuff like that had to be completely cleaned," he said.

"Replace brakes, it's been it's been a mix, but definitely a challenge for everybody."

The idea is to keep the look of the 1966 Volvo wagon, but make it modern.

"So we're incorporating some modern features like climate controls," said Cameron. "Air conditioning wasn't exactly standard in the '60s so we're trying to modernize it and really get it back to some modern comforts."

Kapoor wants to make it not only easy to convert vehicles but economical.

"Our main goal as a University team is to basically open source the technology that allows people to convert cars so we want to basically kick-start the culture of converting old cars into electric," he said.

"We post online for free so anybody can use it, modify it and build off of it, and we really just want to build that community, I think is where we want to go with this."

Learn more about Relectric online Top Stories

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