DIY Electric Car Beats Tesla

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

If ever there was a rags to riches, trash to treasure story, this is it. Imagine heading to a landfill and producing from garbage something able to outperform one of the world’s most celebrated products of its kind.

The Man Who Made It Happen

Eric Lundgren is the CEO of IT Asset Partners. If ever there was a poster child for the “reduce-recycle-reuse” cause, he would certainly be it. To prove how wasteful Americans are, especially regarding things electronic, he decided to take on Tesla with trash.

He began by investing $500 on a 1997 BMW that was scheduled to be scrapped. That in itself isn’t too unusual as many enthusiastic car hobbyists have taken on the challenge of resurrecting salvage automobiles. What makes Lundgren unique is what else he collected before he left the landfill.

The Point of the Project

During his teens and early 20s, Lundgren spent four years in China studying the country’s use and disposition of electronic hardware. He walked away, impressed at how much better the Chinese are at reusing the devices and resources that Americans so readily throw away. Lundgren states that while America may reuse some parts, we miss the biggest opportunity when we throw away the batteries, which brings us back to our story.

Lundgren cobbled together batteries from laptops, cable boxes, and EVs, all of which were destined for the dump. He contacted the various companies that use the batteries and asked confirmation for their use and if they were regarded as waste. Upon inspecting the batteries, Lundgren said, “What we found was, when you open up the pack, 80% of the actual batteries are perfectly working. They’re perfect. The problem is that once over 20% of degradation occurs in the pack, in America, we say it’s trash. We aggregated all these batteries and made this giant 130 kW power battery pack.”

The Proof Is in the Pudding

Lundgren and some engineer friends spent the next 35 days under a tarp in his backyard readying the car for the road. When the project was complete, the result was an 88% recycled electric vehicle, and his total bill came in under $13,000. He then arranged a contest between his vehicle (aptly called the Phoenix) and the current leaders in the world of electric cars.

The Phoenix was pitted against a Chevy Bolt, a Nissan LEAF, and a Tesla Model S P90D on a 362-mile round-trip route following the highway from Chatsworth to San Luis Obispo, California.

At first glance, the Phoenix was nothing but a stripped-down, junker car, certainly not as stylish as any of the other entrants in the contest but the contest wasn’t about looks. This whole endeavor was really to put the exclamation point on one man’s crusade to make America more responsible with its resources.