Purdue students aim to bring electric car to the masses


With gas prices continuing to rise, there's a major new effort underway that could eventually cut what you pay at the pump.

Their business is on a roll. Purdue engineering seniors in on the ground floor - and the basement floor, too - where they are assembling their latest all-electric race car.

EVC Racing's vehicle is off to the Vancouver Auto Show, where they hope it will help fuel enthusiasm for an all-electric racing league.

They've built and raced at Purdue, now their driving ambition is taking them down a new road. A road that could lead to your garage.

"They used to say 'Racing Sunday, showroom Monday'," said Drew Westrick.

The lessons they're learning about building ever-more efficient all electric racers can be applied to the family car, they say.

"Definitely something I would consider if gas prices keep going up like they are," says motorist Lanea Bonney about whether she'd one day by an electric passenger car.

But sales of those cars haven't been fast off the starting line, accounting for just a fraction of all car sales.

University of Indianapolis professor Matthew Will says, "They're great cars and the innovations being made at university and research centers are fantastic. The problem is with battery technology."

Some potential electric car buyers worry about battery life and finding a recharging station when they need one. Eyewitness News drove all over downtown before finding one.

"There's none on campus," says driver Lanea Bonney. "But I've seen some at the library and I've seen some downtown."

But once those issues are fixed, electric car pluses could fuel sales.

"While you have to replace a battery every so often, there's less wear and tear on the engine and over the life span of the car, you're gonna spend about half as much on the maintenance of this vehicle," Will said.

Westrick says the cost of recharging EVC's plug-in battery is "about 25 cents."

"Racing always has been the proving ground of the latest and greatest technology. ABS, traction control all came from racing. Pushing this new technology will create that research which can be put in the cars we drive every day," said EVC's CEO Grant Chapman.

EVC Racing hopes to become the sole supplier of vehicles to the new electric league, which is revving for a first green flag start in 2014.