The computer system that controls...
The computer system that controls power to the motor is protected from the elements in this custom box. The clear plastic makes it easy to monitor and gives onlookers a better view of the car's inner workings. Below the box is another set of batteries.
The group fabricated a frame for the motor that fit in the stock motor mount holes and strategically placed the batteries front, center, and rear to balance the car as close to stock as possible. Michael had to cut the rear bulkhead to fit one of his homemade wood and carbon-fiber battery boxes, but the car was otherwise largely unaltered. Incredibly, without any suspension modifications, the car's stance is indistinguishable from stock. A roughly 200-pound weight gain makes for little more bulk than the average passenger.
Other modifications include a 144-volt battery charger (with a boost transformer to up the voltage), an electric power steering pump, a custom driveshaft that can handle the torquey motor, two 1,500-watt heaters and several battery heating strips for the cold Minnesota months, LED tail lights, and despite a skeptical seller, a set of 4.88 gears. "He said those gears are too tall for an electric motor; it won't move at all," Shoop said. "But he's a Corvette guy, not an electrical engineer."
Michael installed a separate...
Michael installed a separate key on the center counsel to activate the car's 156-volt system. The column key is still used for the 12-volt stuff. An emergency shutdown switch is nearby in case things go wrong, and a conglomeration of handheld devices and gauges fill in for a digital dash that is in the works.
Shoop has been through plenty of frustrating moments throughout the build. So far he's managed to keep most of his hair despite broken U-joints, failed power steering, battery-heating strips that burnt his battery boxes, blown fuses, and a too-small DC-DC converter needed to convert some of the car's 156 volts to power the headlights, fans, etc. The latter problem was fixed by using the converter to charge a marine battery that now handles the 12-volt stuff.
Michael uses the Volt Vette, as it's become known, for almost all of his daily driving. He's racked up more than 2,500 miles on the car so far and had it up to 80 mph on the freeway. Though he hasn't tested its range, he estimates it'll go 40 miles on a full charge with a light foot. But it's hard to keep a light foot in a Corvette, especially when power isn't rpm-limited. And even if the horsepower isn't incredible, the car handles like it should, which is enough to give him an ear-to-ear grin when coasting through the curves. With no transmission, the Corvette will glide forever. "I just go cruising by gas stations and wave."
Though he usually charges the car in his garage, he has plugged it in at area businesses (with permission) for a quick charge more than once. Most people are more than willing to let him do so and it's definitely a conversation starter.
The fuel door is now an electrical...
The fuel door is now an electrical outlet. Note the rear-mounted batteries beneath the plastic. A charging system is also mounted in back.
The price tag for the Volt Vette so far is roughly $28,000 and it's still a work in progress. One major component Shoop is still working on is a custom digital dash. For now, he has a gauge that reads volts and amps, a handheld device that measures temperature, and a GPS for speed. The Corvette is complete enough to be plenty of fun. Other than a few subtle "electric" badges, the car looks stock, so its dead silence at stoplights is enough to cause other motorists and passersby to scratch their heads. Under power, the big electric motor whines like the starship Enterprise jumping to warp speed.
Speaking of warp speed, Michael hopes to get it on a dragstrip soon. "It is fun to drive. It should be interesting when I really open it up." Internal combustion might not be around forever, but Shoop has proven that hot-rodding a Corvette certainly can be.
To track Shoop's progress on the Volt Vette, check out his blog.