Submitted by New Energy News Blog

Barry Bernsten has been bitten by the EV bug. Like other EV enthusiasts before him, he is not waiting around for the major automakers to bring EVs to showrooms. Through his BG Automotive Group Ltd., he’s going to roll his own converted low speed electric vehicles off assembly lines in Philadelphia this year and begin making highway-ready EVs in 2009.Detroit types think Bernsten is smoking something funny. Dennis Virag, head, Detroit’s Automotive Consulting Group Inc.: “You need to show this is more than a golf cart…You need a dealer network, which is very, very expensive to put together. You need a warranty program from the original equipment manufacturer, which isn’t easy to get once you start doing work on their drive train. And we are a litigious society. One little mishap can cost you everything…”EV enthusiasts with a stake in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) on the verge of coming to market are not sure Bernsten’s plans are sound either. Sanjay Deshpande, manager, industrial lithium-ion battery-maker EnerSys: “We think plug-in hybrids are probably more a reality than pure electric cars…We’re not convinced that the consumer is ready to accept the limitations the pure electric car imposes.”

John Hanson, spokesman, Toyota: “Battery technology right this minute has not advanced to the point where we can develop a vehicle that will live up to the expectations of customers, in high volume, at an affordable price.”

Bernsten is undaunted. From 30 years of steel business experience (which made him independently wealthy), he has manufacturing and trade finance contacts. He knows how to mass-produce and keep prices down. He intends to avoid mistakes that have defeated previous EVs (ex: plastic parts, poor-quality steel, small-batch production, high sticker prices). He believes ready global trade, improved battery technology and a plethora of Asian auto suppliers makes the time right to bypass the major automakers.

He is not the first EV enthusiast with big plans. Will he be the first to succeed? One of them will.

(Rocker Neil Young was recently bitten by the EV retrofit bug, too. See NEIL YOUNG ROCKING AN ELECTRIC CAR)

Bernsten looks perfectly sane – but he’s taking on the big automakers. (click to enlarge)

Retrofitting for efficiency; A local entrepreneur says he’ll buy 4,000 cars, install batteries and electric motors, and blow right past the big carmakers
Joseph N. DiStefano, June 16, 2008 (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Barry D. Bernsten, steel wholesaler/founder&head, BG Automotive Group Ltd;

Bernsten will build an assembly plant for retrofitting vehicles with internal combustion engines with batteries and electric motors to turn them into EVs.

Plug fever gets a lot of people but it’s not fatal – it just creates visions of the future. (click to enlarge)

– Bernsten plans to begin operations in 2008.
– He plans to upgrade to the production of high-speed highway-ready conversions in 2009.
– 2006: New Jersey legalized low speed EVs.
– 2008: Pennsylvania is considering legalization of low speed EVs.
– Toyota sold 1000 all-electric vehicles in California in the 1990s but it was an expensive undertaking.

– Bernsten owns American Steel Industries L.L.C. in Center City, PA.
– Most states (not Pennsylvania ) allow low speed (below 35mph) EVs.
– BG Automotive will ship through Baltimore’s port. It will safety-test sample vehicles in a D.C. facility. It’s mass-production plant will be “within 30 miles” of American Steel in Center City.

– Bernsten’s plan is to build a plant for 100 workers and begin with a run of 4,000 vehicle retrofits.
– The first run of vehicles will be low speed EVs and will retail for approximately $16,000.
– Likely first buyers: urban commuters, students, vacation-home owners.

Retrofittin’ in the electic world. (click to enlarge)

– Bernsten: “We’re going to put new cars on the road [this fall]…”
– J. Eustace Wolfington III, industrial real estate broker, Grubb & Ellis: “We have sent them a list of 30 available properties in Philadelphia and surrounding counties that have 200,000 square feet, expandable to 400,000…”
– John Hanson, spokesman, Toyota: “[W]e had to subsidize [the 1990s all-electric Toyota] heavily to get the price down to $42,000…”

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