Students Convert a 1939 Pontiac Silver Streak Into an EV

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Students with the Pontiac Silver Streak, mid-conversion. Photo: RC Electric.

The motto of Roanoke College is “Classic for Tomorrow,” and the students in the Environmental program have taken it to heart: They’re in the process of converting a dilapidated 1939 Pontiac Silver Streak into a functioning electric car. Members of RC Electric, a student organization, are well on the way to creating the first of what they hope will be a fleet of EVs on the Salem, Virginia campus.

Photo: RC Electric

The long-term project began in 2010, when the idea was first proposed. Since then, it’s come a long way: the Silver Streak has been purchased (for $1,500), media blasted, primed and painted (burgundy red, the school’s color). The original eight-cylinder engine has been removed and new glass installed. This summer, RC Electric will tackle the wiring and finish restoring the interior.

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Then comes the tricky part: making the car go again. One RC Electric member is working with Electro Automotive, an EV conversion company in California, to determine how to move forward with the DC conversion. A battery will likely be purchased from Trexa or Tesla, and GE may pitch in with an electric car charging station on the Roanoke campus.

As all that happens, Eric Lefevers, president of RC Electric, said in an e-mail, the club is looking for funding. It has applied for a $20,000 grant from the GE Foundation and is searching for other sponsors. The 50 students who have been involved with the project are working toward a 2014 completion date, but would love to get it done sooner than that. Whenever it’s done, it will be quite a sight: the car from 1939, running on the energy of the future.

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Photo: RC Electric
Photo: RC Electric