GoElectric is a Calgary company helping Albertans make the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) and grow the movement towards renewable and environmentally-friendly energy use. The business has two offerings: they convert cars to run on electric motors and they sell/lease imported used electric vehicles. To learn more about the company, find out about their investment in solar energy and their participation at Solar Canada 2018, we interviewed Jim Steil, one of the co-founders of GoElectric.
Can you tell us a bit about GoElectric and the solutions it provides?
We are offering our customers the opportunity to get into a nice car that can outperform, costs much less to run and requires much less maintenance than a conventional gas-powered vehicle. They are a really wonderful thing, but expensive to buy brand-new. We can get someone into a really good electric car for about half the cost of a new one
It’s also a really pleasurable driving experience – they are quiet and very responsive. I don’t know if the word ‘addictive’ is accurate, but EVs become something you really appreciate once you start driving one .
Bringing in affordable electric cars is really exciting for us, especially when it comes to attending Solar Canada, where people are already of the mindset to do what is both financially and environmentally responsible.
What got you interested in the idea of converting and importing electric cars?
Both my business partner and I are electrical engineers. It all started when I read an article in the Alberta Oil Review [July, 2015] that basically said “Look out! Electric cars are coming!” Oddly, that inspired me. Once I realized how far things have come technically, the advantages of having an EV were really compelling.
My first project was my 1968 Volvo (the “Evolvo”), restored and beautiful. I pulled the 340-lb. gas engine out of it and put in a little alternating-current (AC) motor that weighed about 90 lbs. I put in batteries and a Battery Management System made by Tesla, something we now do for all our converted cars. Right now we’re working on a 1958 Volkswagen Beetle ragtop.
For importing EVs, it was a realization we had: A lot of people came to us saying, “I want to convert my Subaru, the motor’s going to die.” But when it comes down to it, it’s not the best idea to convert a car if all you want is a commuter vehicle.
That’s why we started importing. Most people will probably want to buy one, unless they have a really nice classic car that will be worth something when they’re done the conversion. Even then, it is still going to cost a lot of money in parts and many hours of work. If you want to pay someone to do it, or even want to do it yourself, you need to have a car that’s worth it.
What opportunities are there in the relationship between electric vehicle and solar energy technologies?
I think they are very synergistic, EVs and solar. If you can generate your own electricity and put it into your car, that’s hugely satisfying —environmentally, economically and in terms of driving pleasure, it’s a really great combination.
The one thing that’s missing for most people who put solar on their roof, is they’re probably charging at night when they’re not getting energy from the panels. I really feel home-based battery storage is kind of a missing link. Solutions are becoming commercially available, which I hope means this won’t be a problem for too much longer. And for us at GoElectric, we are planning on installing a solar array on the roof of our new workshop to heat the building and keep the lights on, but also at very little cost we can have a solar-powered DC charger the public can use.
Also, for us at GoElectric we have a new space – a 7000 sq. ft. workshop. We are going to use that to do conversions for our clients, but a part of that space will be dedicated for other people to come down and do their own conversions – an EV makerspace. Being a couple of tinkering Electrical Engineers – and car guys – this is the part of our business we are most proud of.
Why should attendees come visit GoElectric at Solar Canada 2018?
If you are coming to Solar Canada and have been thinking you would like to get an electric car, we can get you started. We will have three cars that represent different features of electric cars: a BMW i3, which is actually a hybrid, but has a longer electric range than other hybrids; a Nissan Leaf, the most popular electric car in the world; and the third car is a Fiat 500e, which I think is the sportiest of the three. We will be there to answer any questions you have about EVs.
If you would like to meet Jim and learn more about EVs and their relationship with solar energy, you can meet him at Solar Canada 2018, June 20-21 in Calgary. Learn more about Solar Canada and who should attend https://solarcanadaconference.ca/attend/.