Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Land O'Lakes man is building an electric car from scratch

LAND O'LAKES

Steve Azzoli put together his first electric car at age 9. A miniature auto made of wood and rubber bands with a D-cell flashlight battery, it sparked an idea in the child's mind.

"Back in 1955 I asked my dad, 'Why are there no electric cars?' " he said.

Now a 63-year-old retiree, Azzoli is still asking that question, only now he is supplying his own answer by restoring and converting his own fully functional electric car.

Taking the canvas of a '97 Saturn salvaged from a junk yard, Azzoli has organized a community effort to craft a battery-operated automobile that will run 200 miles to the charge, with no pricey stops at the gas station to keep the car on the road.

"The price of gas has gone through the roof," he said. "Oil prices are skyrocketing. It's time that people woke up and smelled the coffee, and found an alternative."

Azzoli started his project in February and plans to have a completed car sometime in December. He expects to invest $23,000 in the project, including $14,000 to buy the multifaceted battery system needed to make the car run, and $2,200 for an electrically adapted motor.

Sure, that costs more than many fuel-driven cars. But Azzoli thinks the investment in a gas-free car will be worth it — not only for him, but for anyone affected by the financial strain caused by gas prices.

"The car — and the idea behind the car — will be around long after I'm gone," Azzoli said. "We are all put on Earth to contribute something."

The project came naturally to Azzoli: He studied engineering in high school and the Navy and is known as "Mr. Fix It" to many friends. He often fixes electrical shorts and other minor malfunctions for his neighbors.

Before tackling the electric car project, Azzoli did a great deal of online research, including watching a YouTube video of a guy who built an electric car in a garden shed. Then he turned to his network of friends and acquaintances, including several parts suppliers and repair shops that were willing to donate their labor and provide parts at cost.

Azzoli started with the $400 Saturn he salvaged from International Auto Parts in Spring Hill.

"I got exactly the car I needed and stripped it down, taking out the gas motor and the heating and air conditioning units that run on gas power," he said. "I cleaned up the interior and replaced everything I could replace."

The body is shiny and black, though Azzoli plans to paint it blue. The inside is neat and clean. In time he plans to add electric-friendly air conditioning and heating systems, plus power steering, power windows and power door locks. A big tray in the back will support the battery.

Other friends and businesses have offered help along the way. Rebirth Auto of St. Petersburg helped Azzoli get the right battery system, motor controller and other parts to "electrify" an auto.

"We've been doing these conversions for four years now," said Steve Messerschmidt, sales and engineering representative for Rebirth Auto, who provided parts to Azzoli at cost. "What Steve is doing represents a melding of old school with cutting edge . . . And it will help the environment."

Diamond Auto Works Inc. in Lutz donated its labor on much of the body work, including the placement of fenders, bumpers and supporters. Precision Complete Car Care in Land O'Lakes provided restoration parts, including shocks and struts.

"I have a background as an electrical engineer, and this is something I always wanted to do myself," said Mike Cogan, the proprietor of Precision.

Other companies that have chipped in include the Tampa companies Eisele's Automotive Machine Service, All Star Standard Transmission, Hutcherson Alternators & Starters, Rinker Machinery and Tampa Spring; and Advance Auto Parts and Ferman Buick GMC, both in Lutz.

Tana Brackins, owner of Beck Gallery in Lutz, has designed an electric vehicle logo with a long orange electric cord coming out of the letters "EV." It will be placed on the car with help from Accurate Signs on Time in Land O'Lakes. Brackins also is taking photos of each stage of the car's assembly, creating a pictorial record that Azzoli hopes to post online to show others how to tackle such a project.

Azzoli considers his effort the grand culmination of a lifetime of work, study and dedication. And though he calls this project "my last hurrah," he has other items awaiting his attention in his workshop.

His next project involves developing solar-powered air-conditioning for his home.

Comments

High school scoreboard for Dec. 15

Friday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 7, Clearwater 0Osceola 9, Bradenton Bayshore 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Plant 1Boys soccerPalm Harbor U. 0, Plant 0Lennard 4, Armwood 1
Updated: 8 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Fri., Dec. 15, midday:01 563 0000e_SRit95765Fri., Dec. 15, evening:12 287 1492e_SRit04851Fantasy 5Fri., Dec. 15...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is very little these days that can dampen the mood of Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise, whose Gators knocked off reigning national champion Stanford in Thursday’s NCAA semifinals and face Nebraska tonight for the title. Not...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 10 hours ago
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched a stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then tr...
Updated: 12 hours ago