DEERTON - When Sam Simonetta starts up his Chevy S10 truck, it is as quiet as a mouse. No fumes leave the exhaust pipe and no gasoline is circulated within the body. What does this truck run on? Twenty-six golf cart batteries.
Christine and Sam Simonetta of Deerton decided about a year and a half ago to invest in a new vehicle. They also realized that their wind turbine - which produces 100 percent of their home's electricity - was generating some excess energy.
"So we thought, what can we do with the excess?" Simonetta said. "We were going to need a new vehicle soon; why not put the excess energy into a vehicle?"
Sam Simonetta of Deerton shows off six of his 26 batteries that power his truck on electricity. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)
The Simonettas decided to convert a used 2002 Chevy pickup into an electric vehicle for more than one reason.
"Electric vehicles pollute less, they're cleaner," he said. "We wanted to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and have more stability in transportation costs. We didn't want to wait for the 'Big Three' (to come up) with something that can be bought commercially."
After a lot of research, the Simonettas purchased the used truck, a kit that would convert the truck into one that runs on electricity and 26 batteries that can be 100 percent recycled.
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"The first thing we did is pull out the engine, take out the bed to take out the gas tank, exhaust and cooling system," he said, adding that because of the weight of the batteries, he also exchanged the leaf springs and shocks with a more supportable system. "After that it was mostly wiring stuff."
Simonetta said it took a lot of time and the help of Joe Hulverson of Negaunee and Randy Richardson of RightHand Engineering in Washington state to get the 4,500-pound truck running.
Now, Simonetta doesn't have to deal with oil changes or tune-ups. "No coolant flushes and, best of all, no stops at the gas station," he said.
What he does have to deal with is charging the batteries after every time he drives the truck.
"We can go 40 miles" on 26 batteries, he said. Then the batteries need to be charged for about six hours in the Simonetta's 240-volt outlet in the garage. It can also be plugged into a regular wall outlet, but it will take 12 hours to charge.
"Really the only disadvantage is, we're probably going to be limited when we drive it here," Simonetta said - the truck does not have four-wheel drive; the battery capacity decreases in cold weather; and salt can't be allowed to get into the electric motor.
The electric truck is used as a commuter vehicle and can drive as fast as 70 mph. It fits the couple's already-green lifestyle.
The Simonettas, who moved to the Upper Peninsula in 2001, built an energy efficient home that uses renewable energy on 15 acres at Onota Hill near Deerton - a spot that overlooks Deer Lake by Shelter Bay.
They invested in a residential wind energy system, energy efficient windows, low flow shower heads and low flow sink aerators; dual-flush toilets; a front-loading washing machine and a passive solar design.
Simonetta's love for alternative energy has also led the mechanical engineer to start up his own business, called Lean, Clean Energy. He consults with people who are interested in installing alternative energy systems, and does site assessments and system installation.
On his Web site, www.leancleanenergy.org, he explains in detail what it took for him to convert his truck into an electric vehicle. For more information, call 906-892-8504.