It’s not a car anyone would look at twice if they saw it driving down the street.
If you happened to see Dalton Fetsch’s 1991 Geo Metro you would see the peeling blue paint and a red hood that doesn’t match the rest of the car. If he happened to be stopped with the back hatch open, you might notice that he needs a pair of pliers to keep it open.
But what you wouldn’t notice was the noise of its motor. It doesn’t make a sound.
Fetsch has turned this car, which he bought for $150 after someone he knew blew out the engine, into a completely electric vehicle. He will be submitting it as his senior culminating project Thursday.
“It’s been a fun project,” he said.
The 18-year-old said he has worked on the car off and on for about a year with his dad, Brent. He gutted the engine and put in 15 batteries to power it. He took out the back seats to make room for the batteries, and upgraded the suspension to handle their weight.
He said he was inspired to make the car after he saw the movie, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” in his advance placement environmental science class at Freeman High School. The documentary features GM’s EV1, an all-electric car that garnered a lot of buzz in the mid-’90s but was taken off the market by 2004.
Fetsch’s car has a 49 horsepower electric engine that will go about 30 miles on a single charge. That will get Fetch from his home in Hangman to his school and back. He can also use an ordinary extension cord to charge it, and has rigged the outlet into the opening where the car used to get its gasoline.
“He is such a brilliant kid,” said Sergio Hernandez, Freeman School District’s superintendant. “What he does next remains to be seen.”
Fetsch said he was sponsored by Exide Batteries, which gave him the 15 batteries needed to power the car. Ordinarily, they would cost $250 each. He also got some help with purchasing the tires from Les Schwab. He’s still looking for a blue hood.
He said the car can go as fast as 80 mph.
“It doesn’t have any problem keeping up with traffic,” he said.
Fetsch spent around $3,000 on the car, a figure his dad matched.
Along with figuring out watt hours per mile and the amp hours of battery voltage, Fetsch also figured out it costs him about 25 cents to completely charge up the batteries.
The car is legal to drive – he has insurance for it, but getting it licensed took some work.
Washington state asked for an emissions test, but since the car doesn’t have any emissions, the Department of Ecology had to issue him a waiver.
Fetsch also has a Toyota Tacoma. The battery-operated car isn’t his primary vehicle. He plans to only drive it to and from school.
“I’m not going to take it on a road trip.”