THE SHOP

August '17

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44 THE SHOP AUGUST 2017 W e admit it. We didn't get it. At least not at first, when we started out to write a story about electric auto racing—as if electric auto racing was somehow different, from, well, auto racing. That was our first mistake. Fortunately, Michael Bream, founder, owner, and chief engineer of EV West in San Marcos, California quickly set us straight. As for car enthusiast credentials, Bream is as real deal as you'll find. The self-described "son of a major car guy" who grew up in his dad's garage, Bream started road racing BMWs in the late Oughts and was soon doing well enough to find himself needing new mountains to climb, so to speak. So, he built an electric BMW E36, packing 500 hp and 1,000 foot-pounds of torque, and in 2012 drove it up Pike's Peak in 11 minutes 58 seconds—good for 54th overall, and a more-than-respectable time for a rookie running a stock-based sedan against the multi-million-dollar factory teams. (Toyota's Fumio Nutahara topped the electric class at 10:15; while Rhys Millen won overall, setting a new course record of 9:46.) "But I had beaten the entire vintage class," Bream recalls, "the 911s, the Hemi 'Cudas, and the Cobras. And that's when I knew I had something special." Today, Bream's EV West sells every conceiv- able component for the electric-car DIYer, plus some basic conversion kits, mostly for various rear-engine Volkswagens. The com- pany's premium products, however, are its custom kits, which, for around $20,000, provide everything you need to convert any car or light truck, from the 1970s or older, to electric power. For an undisclosed amount, EV West will install the conver- sion in its own shop. Yet, despite his obvious success, Bream still encounters attitudes about electric cars that just don't match up with reality. "The biggest misunderstanding is that electric car enthusiasts are out to save the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone in my shop is a full-on horsepower guy, and we still actively race gas-powered BMWs," he explains. "But there's this weird feeling out there. I think it's based in politics, which is sad. But people tend to think we're trying to take something from them, when in truth we're giving them an option, in the same way you have the option to put a turbocharger or a supercharger on your car." And for brute accel- 44 THE SHOP AUGUST 2017 SHOCK THERAPY Discovering the world of EV racing. By John F. Katz Maris Ozolin's "Electric Fox" reached 170-plus mph with an AC motor setup. (Photos courtesy Rhema Motors LLC) TECHNOLOGY & ELECTRONICS

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