News

Company's kit will electrify a Miata

Kleenspeed offers easy conversion from gas engine to a poor man's Tesla

Thanks to a local company there's now an alternative to shelling out $100,000 for a Tesla Roadster. It is a kit that will turn the popular Mazda Miata into an electric roadster for less than $20,000.

Kleenspeed, an electric car company based at NASA Ames, will soon be selling the $16,000 kit at kleenspeed.com. It comes with everything needed to convert the world's best-selling sports car, including a new wiring harness and a set of lithium phosphate batteries that give it a claimed 70-mile range.

The test bed for the kit is Kleenspeed's "Eiata," a red 1990 model said to have had a bad engine. Kleenspeed bought it for $1,000.

Taking a break from more ambitious efforts to produce an all-new electric car that would sell for $20,000, the company developed the Eiata over one month during the summer with some help from four engineering students.

How does it perform?

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The Kleenspeed team was more than happy to hand over the "Eiata" keys to this Voice reporter for a test drive around the empty parking lots of NASA Ames. The first thing you notice is the strange silence when the key is turned on. The Kleenspeed people tell you to just step on the gas pedal.

We had no way to compare it, but the electric motor seems to accelerates about as well as the Miata's original 1.6-liter gas engine, but with a smooth, quiet whine as it revs to its 6500 r.p.m. limit. Revving it that high is futile, however, as torque and horsepower begin to drop off at 3,000 r.p.m. The benefit is having 100 foot-pounds of torque just as soon as the motor begins to spin.

The kit retains the Miata's manual transmission and clutch, and the trademark click-click of the Miata's shift linkage is more audible. Driving the car can be as easy as driving a golf cart, since it can be left in one gear, no shifting required. Kleenspeed claims the car will do 120 miles per hour.

The $10,000 battery pack, split between the trunk and the engine compartment, adds 300 pounds to the car. The original suspension sags under the weight. But even with that ballast at each end it's hard to kill the little Miata's handling abilities. Combine it with the low-speed torque of an electric motor and it begs to be thrown into corners with the rear end sliding, at least at the low speeds we were driving. A well matched set of springs and shocks would do wonders.

Those who are less mechanically inclined may have Kleenspeed install the kit at additional cost. The company says components of the kit, including the motor, should require no maintenance, which means an electric Miata should need little more than new brake pads and tires for tens of thousands of miles.

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While Kleenspeed says the Miata has a range of 70 miles, aggressive driving may reduce that to 35 miles, said Dante Zeviar, chief technology officer at Kleenspeed..

All things considered, the Eiata will put a smile on your face with its simple goodness. Perhaps it's the ideal California car for those without $100,000 to spend for a Tesla.

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Company's kit will electrify a Miata

Kleenspeed offers easy conversion from gas engine to a poor man's Tesla

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Nov 4, 2010, 10:08 pm
Updated: Mon, Nov 8, 2010, 10:40 am

Thanks to a local company there's now an alternative to shelling out $100,000 for a Tesla Roadster. It is a kit that will turn the popular Mazda Miata into an electric roadster for less than $20,000.

Kleenspeed, an electric car company based at NASA Ames, will soon be selling the $16,000 kit at kleenspeed.com. It comes with everything needed to convert the world's best-selling sports car, including a new wiring harness and a set of lithium phosphate batteries that give it a claimed 70-mile range.

The test bed for the kit is Kleenspeed's "Eiata," a red 1990 model said to have had a bad engine. Kleenspeed bought it for $1,000.

Taking a break from more ambitious efforts to produce an all-new electric car that would sell for $20,000, the company developed the Eiata over one month during the summer with some help from four engineering students.

How does it perform?

The Kleenspeed team was more than happy to hand over the "Eiata" keys to this Voice reporter for a test drive around the empty parking lots of NASA Ames. The first thing you notice is the strange silence when the key is turned on. The Kleenspeed people tell you to just step on the gas pedal.

We had no way to compare it, but the electric motor seems to accelerates about as well as the Miata's original 1.6-liter gas engine, but with a smooth, quiet whine as it revs to its 6500 r.p.m. limit. Revving it that high is futile, however, as torque and horsepower begin to drop off at 3,000 r.p.m. The benefit is having 100 foot-pounds of torque just as soon as the motor begins to spin.

The kit retains the Miata's manual transmission and clutch, and the trademark click-click of the Miata's shift linkage is more audible. Driving the car can be as easy as driving a golf cart, since it can be left in one gear, no shifting required. Kleenspeed claims the car will do 120 miles per hour.

The $10,000 battery pack, split between the trunk and the engine compartment, adds 300 pounds to the car. The original suspension sags under the weight. But even with that ballast at each end it's hard to kill the little Miata's handling abilities. Combine it with the low-speed torque of an electric motor and it begs to be thrown into corners with the rear end sliding, at least at the low speeds we were driving. A well matched set of springs and shocks would do wonders.

Those who are less mechanically inclined may have Kleenspeed install the kit at additional cost. The company says components of the kit, including the motor, should require no maintenance, which means an electric Miata should need little more than new brake pads and tires for tens of thousands of miles.

While Kleenspeed says the Miata has a range of 70 miles, aggressive driving may reduce that to 35 miles, said Dante Zeviar, chief technology officer at Kleenspeed..

All things considered, the Eiata will put a smile on your face with its simple goodness. Perhaps it's the ideal California car for those without $100,000 to spend for a Tesla.

Comments

USA
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 5, 2010 at 10:12 am
USA, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 5, 2010 at 10:12 am
3 people like this

$1,000 vs. $20,000 for a 20 year old car with zero trunk space left that only goes 75 miles (or 35 if driven like the gas version would be driven.)

Now, add in the fact that the electricity currently produced and produced in the foreseeable future creates more pollution at the power plant than the equivalent from a gas-powered Miata.

If I was student with 20 grand to blow over the summer, I would do something a little more productive ar at least something fun.


Mike Laursen
Monta Loma
on Nov 5, 2010 at 11:16 am
Mike Laursen, Monta Loma
on Nov 5, 2010 at 11:16 am
3 people like this

Cool!


Daniel DeBolt
Registered user
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Nov 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm
Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
Registered user
on Nov 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm
3 people like this

Here's some info about where our electricity comes from for those who are curious: Web Link

And there's a good amount of trunk space in the Eiata. The batteries are recessed into the trunk floor.


Sarah
another community
on Nov 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Sarah, another community
on Nov 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm
3 people like this

But can it be installed in a BMW Mini Cooper? That would be my dream car.


Marco
Waverly Park
on Nov 6, 2010 at 8:52 am
Marco, Waverly Park
on Nov 6, 2010 at 8:52 am
3 people like this

Why would you do this with a car that is already gas mileage efficient? Do this with another car that gets crappy mileage and then i'll be impressed ...


cuesta resident
Cuesta Park
on Nov 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm
cuesta resident, Cuesta Park
on Nov 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm
3 people like this

yeah, no company has come up yet with an affordable, highly efficient, fully electrical car. but the idea is still valid, even if almost a 'product for the curious' like this one.


Sick of it
Monta Loma
on Nov 8, 2010 at 2:51 pm
Sick of it, Monta Loma
on Nov 8, 2010 at 2:51 pm
3 people like this

@USA a.k.a. #1 mv-voice Troll

I don't know why you would use the word "fact" in you comment. Your statements are obviously misinformed opinion.


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