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High school student raising funds to build electric Beetle

If Grayson Eady reaches his goal, in just more than three years, he’ll be driving an electric car north to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The 15-year-old high school sophomore from Oxford is raising money to convert a reddish-orange, 1973 Super Beetle that he plans to from a gas to an electric engine.

“I want to be an engineer; go to MIT,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in electric cars, and I started thinking about it. It seemed, in theory, it wouldn’t be too difficult. But it turned out there was more involved and I’ve been designing it ever since.”

It will cost more than he originally expected, too — about $30,000, he said.

When people ask him why it will cost so much to make the conversion, he breaks down the math of the purchase of the VW Bug —$2,400 — plus the green upgrades.

“The electric motor will cost about $4,500,” he said. “The batteries will cost about $10,000. [Converting] all the other systems bring it up to $30,000.

“There are a lot of systems that go into making a one-off electric car,” he said, explaining that it always cost more to make just one of something. “It’s my own personalized electric car.

“I have to have a charger that connects to the batteries, that translates the power from the outlet to the batteries, and that’s a couple thousand dollars,” he said. “I have to have a motor controller that controls how much electricity goes to the motor when I put on the ‘gas’.”

Working with a VW

The son of David and Vicki Eady of Oxford, Eady is a student at George Walton Academy in Monroe. He is building the car as a way to build his resume for college, preferably MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology.

After he and his father, a sustainability consultant, came up with the idea to convert a gas car to an electric car, he began to do his research. Volkswagens, he said, were one of the most popular cars to convert. “They’re pretty easy to work with,” he said.

“I’ve done a lot of research,” he said. “I’ve always been into cars, so I felt like I knew a good bit about cars. For the past few years, I’ve been interested in alternative energy. He started researching the more technical aspects of building an electric engine and installing it in a Beetle.

To convert a gas-fueled car involves removing the entire internal combustion engine, replacing it with an electric motor and adding a large bank of batteries. Because the solid-state electronics used have no moving parts, the electric engine has a much longer lifespan than a gas engine.

More efficient and faster

Right now, he said, he’s been drawing out how he’ll do the conversion. He said he’s been in touch with a California company that designs electric cars converted from gas cars and they’ve given him tips.

“The [internal combustion] engine takes up a lot of space,” he said, speaking of the VW’s rear engine location. “The electric motor I’d be using is significantly smaller. I’m using the trunk [in the front of the car] and back seat for battery space. I’m going to be using 10 batteries. Each will provide 3 kilowatt hours; that translates to about 150 miles.”

The engine will take five hours to charge, he said, but it will actually perform better than the gas engine. “It will have more horsepower. The standard Beetle had about 45 [horsepower]; mine will have about 90.

Aside from his college aspirations, Eady said he has undertaken the project because he is a “firm environmentalist. This car would be a way to spread the word to those around me to get people interested in alternative energy and how cool electric cars can.”

Eady has created a Go Fund Me page, asking for donations to pay for the conversion. He said he uses the page to update people who have donated on the project’s progress and also regularly sends email updates.
To learn more about the project and see Eady’s video of the Beetle, visit