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Interest in self-built EV revs up

Masterton-born mechanic and EV specialist Sebastian Frances has designed and built his own electric vehicle, named Ghost, for hill climb competitions.

Starting the project six years ago, Frances took four years to arrive at a completed prototype.

Now, two years after completion, MotorSport New Zealand is taking a serious interest in the innovative vehicle.

“I was trying to get it competition-ready two years ago, but now they are finally taking a good look at it,” Francis said.

“It’s not road legal; its sole purpose is for competition.”

Some of the elements of Frances’s car were modelled on a similarly styled petrol car one of his friends had built.

He said designing and building the car wasn’t much more difficult, although it did present some unique challenges.

“The drive trains had to be custom-built to connect the motors to the wheels,” Frances said.

While he mostly worked on the car himself, he did receive bits of help from friends who were engineering students at the University of Canterbury.

Reaching top speeds of 120kph with a top run time of three minutes is something Frances said might not sound exciting, but given what the car is used for, it is actually just what’s required.

“The car is for hill climb events, which involve travelling through steep, narrow, winding roads, which means you can only go so fast,” he said.

“It could go for longer with a bigger battery, but for the competitions, you want the weight to be as small as possible.

“The hill climb runs are usually only one to two minutes.”

The car was recently taken to Wings over Wairarapa, where Frances said many kids took the opportunity to jump in the front seat to marvel at the design.

Frances has also done promotions with EVolocity, a nationwide STEM program for Year 7 to 13 students that facilitates the design and build of two-to-four-wheeled electric vehicles – usually in the form of a bike, trike, or go-cart – as well as interschool competitions between the completed creations, as a way of inspiring students to pursue careers in sustainable engineering.

When he’s not building his own vehicles, Frances’s day job involves working on mass-production cars for Thomsen Automotive in Petone, which markets itself as a specialist in EV and hybrid maintenance and repair.

Frances said he prefers not having to dump litres and litres of oil every day.

“Electric vehicles are much better for the environment and don’t contribute anywhere near the carbon emissions.”

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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