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Richard W. Marks
EnVironmental Transportation Solutions, LLC
Biographical background on the author:
The author has always been interested in mechanical and electrical things. From early ages he took things apart and put them back together. He took that interest to college and graduated from University of Maryland with a BSME (Mechanical Engineering). He then went on to Cornell University and graduated with a MSME. He was recruited by General Motors Research Labs and went to work with GM in Warren, MI. He decided early on he wanted to get the experiences necessary to become a Car Division Chief Engineer. While that never happened, he did get a variety of great experiences in areas of vehicle structure, safety, durability, ride pleasibility, weight control, international structures program coordination, aero dynamics, chassis systems, and electric vehicles. He considers his expertise to be total vehicle systems with the understanding of how to conduct a production vehicle program start to finish.
He spent 25 years with GM, but his last 5 years were involved with the EV1 electric vehicle program and with EV conversion programs. He worked on the vehicle systems and assembly side and was involved with all the engineers and management team on the entire vehicle. He then initiated an activity to develop EV conversions that GM and its manufacturing partners could build in their own plants. While the EV1 was exceptional, it was also very expensive to develop and build. Conversions offered GM an opportunity to market and sell a much lower price EV to the commercial and consumer markets. He and his team built the first Chevy S10 conversion for GM and GM took that to production, but not with the author involved or in the way he had originally intended. The S10 GM built was costly and did not do very well in the market for many reasons.
After the S10, he pursued a relationship with Toyota to build a Geo Prizm conversion in the Fremont, CA plant. That project got relatively far along, until GM and Toyota could not resolve financial issues. Then his team converted a Geo Tracker 4 door to electric drive for a management demonstration and it was accepted as a worthwhile project to continue. The team pursued a relationship with Suzuki to convert the Tracker in the CAMI plant in Canada. Suzuki got very involved in the project and wanted to do this. Between the Toyota and Suzuki projects, the author made many trips to Japan and Europe and met with many of the suppliers making EV parts. Tracker was coming in initially too expensive and the team was told to reduce the cost by 30% if it was ever to reach production. Six months later the team had reduced costs more than 30% but GM decided they had changed their minds. The author then went off and pursued a couple other conversions.
One was going to be a low cost Postal Truck conversion (never built), well before the USPS issued their RFP for one in the 1998 time-frame. The other was to convert a small car, the “Chevy,” being built for the Mexican market (Actually it was a German Opel small car produced in Mexico). This project was coordinated and guided with two outside suppliers who had a great deal of electric vehicle experience. Two cars were converted. The one selected was outstanding and demonstrated how simple and low-cost a small car conversion could be. The car did not have air conditioning, but did have everything else. It went 65 mph and about 50-60 miles on a charge. It could be assembled in Mexico on the assembly line and brought to the US and certified. But again GM got cold feet and it was at that point that the author decided that his commitment to EV’s was far greater than GM’s. He left GM and walked out the door after nearly 25 years.
The over the next 6 years, the author took on two jobs with a couple of Tier 1 suppliers to the major US OEM’s. He got great experiences to complement his GM experiences. He learned how to quote projects, work with Tier 2 & 3 suppliers, did supplier development, learned quality systems, did Process Sign-Offs and Production Part Approval Processes, worked with manufacturing sites and even set up a low volume assembly line to build a specialty automotive truck. All of this was done as he continued to be in charge of the Engineering & Design Teams, and responsible for Project Management and Profit/Loss. Both jobs ended when both companies re-organized under new management from outside of the US.
At that point the author came back to his passion for electric vehicles and started a consulting company on EV’s, EnVironmental Transportation Solutions, LLC. He consulted for two companies trying to develop neighborhood and highway electric vehicles. Both companies failed to find investors and pay him for his work so finally he left to do his own road-worthy electric Low Speed Vehicle. He brought his work back to Michigan which included several prototypes he, with the help of others, had built (at his expense.) The EcoVElectric is the product his company is working on to get funded. The author is now writing a book to guide people doing EV conversions (converting gas cars to electric drive). His purpose is to bring his understanding of vehicle safety, both at the vehicle level and high voltage safey level and plug-n-play reliability to the surface that others can learn from his OEM knowledge. He wants converters to better understand the consequences they face with each decision they make as they modify their cars to electric drive. The book should help the EV cause in many different ways by making conversions less science fair projects, more safe and more enjoyable.
If you have questions, or need advise; I am an email away. Look for my book "The Converter's Guide to the Galaxy and EV Conversions," coming soon to eBay(?).
Lastly, in 2007 he joined the Electric Automobile Association (www.EAAEV.org) and got involved in creating a new Michigan Chapter. His goal was to help the EV converters of the EAA to understand better how to improve their conversions in many different regards. His focus has been on safety and reliability. This Guide is a result of that desire.
Join EAA; it is a great organization and they will help you with your conversion, too.