On the Record with Carnegie Mellon Robotics Professor and electric car converter Illah Nourbakhsh 

Plans for Charge Car, a Carnegie Mellon University-based project to convert conventional used autos into short-range electric cars, has been advancing in the past year. From 3-6 p.m. Fri., March 25, Charge Car's Oakland headquarters (www.chargecar.org) will host an open house to unveil a converted 2004 Honda Civic. Project leader Illah Nourbakhsh says additional conversions should begin soon, with area businesses supplying fabrication and mechanical work. Nourbakhsh spoke with City Paper.


How do the converted cars drive?
We learned that these things are reliable. They just don't break. The car goes 70 miles an hour, no problem, on the parkway here, up Green Tree hill. It's a really wonderfully fun car to drive. 

What can people do at the open house?
They can kick the tires and sit in it and go for drives with us.

What if they want a conversion?
We're unveiling a waiting list.

What's a conversion cost?
Unfortunately there's no big [government] subsidy [as there is for buying a new Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt]. The total conversion is about $20,000.

We're going to announce a small subsidy program from our lab so we can help the first few buyers. If we end up with 10 or 15 people on the sign-up list, then you're talking about buying things in batches of a dozen. It's going to bring the cost down a good 10 or 20 percent, I hope.

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