Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

CMU shows off Honda Civic made electric

Convert your Civic to all-electric with this Carnegie Mellon project called ChargeCar. But be prepared to invest serious cash.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
This Honda Civic is ChargeCar's latest conversion. It can travel at least 40 miles in mixed driving on a charge. CMU

If you're sick of high fuel prices, Carnegie Mellon is running a car conversion project that takes gasoline-powered Hondas and makes them all electric.

The automaker showed off an electric Fit last year that can travel 100 miles per charge, but if you want a greener Civic, the CMU Robotics Institute's ChargeCar Electric Vehicle Conversion Project might be for you.

Researchers such as Illah Nourbakhsh of the institute's Create Lab work with local mechanics in converting Civics. At an open house near CMU on March 25, they will unveil a 2002 Civic EX four-door sedan that's been electrified.

The converted Civic's battery pack. CMU

The Civic's conventional powertrain has been replaced with a 35-horsepower electric motor and 33 lithium-iron-phosphate batteries.

According to a CMU release, the car can drive more than 40 miles in mixed urban and highway driving, and has a top speed of more than 70 miles per hour (CMU would not specify an exact number).

The project has details on the conversion of a 2005 Honda Civic LX with the same stats; charging takes about 10 hours. Check out the photo gallery here.

How much does conversion cost? Jobs vary, but a CMU official said the best estimate he's seen is $17,000 or more. Ouch.

That price may fall as the project continues. Meanwhile, a Create Lab staff member is going to order and pay for the first commercial conversion in the program.

An interesting part of the conversion project is that researchers are trying to make the cars more efficient through better power management and AI.

Batteries are linked to a supercapacitor, a high-capacitance energy storage device, and artificial intelligence algorithms are used to decide when energy is drawn from batteries and stored in the supercapacitor. The goal is to improve battery life.

You can see the converted Civic at the upcoming open house and sign up to electrify yours too; see details here.