The homebuilt electric Z-Kart - who needs a Tesla Roadster?
By Ben Coxworth
April 7, 2011
As major automobile manufacturers around the world pour countless dollars and man hours into the research and development of electric vehicles, George Fortin has quietly gone about making one of his own. While it is true that his Z-Kart is just a one-seater with a range of 20 miles and a top speed of 40 mph that lacks pretty much any safety features or cargo capacity, it is nonetheless a well-engineered little buggy that looks like it would be a blast to drive. Not bad at all, for something that was made and designed and built by a real estate broker.
Fortin, who lives in San Clemente, California, has been interested in building motorized vehicles since he was a child. His son's battery-powered radio-controlled model cars inspired him to create his first electric cart, which he decided was too complex. He simplified the design by reducing the number of parts, and ended up with the Z-Kart.
The 300 pound (136 kg) vehicle is powered by a 72-volt DC motor via six lead-acid batteries (chosen because they are more cost effective than lithium ion). It charges from a 110-volt outlet through a retractable cord in about three hours, has a range of around 20 miles (32 km), and a top speed of 40 mph (64 kph) – although George believes it could reach 50 with different gearing.
Its solid polyethylene frame was built from scratch, as were its rear aluminum hubs. The rims are designed for sandrail dune buggies, the brakes are made for racing go-carts, and its tires are intended for use on motorcycles. Fortin originally tried using bicycle wheels and tires, but they weren't structurally strong enough.
Although we may never be commuting to work in Z-Karts of our own, George hopes that his creation will nonetheless inspire others to build more practical electric vehicles.