BURN host Alex Chadwick visited Mike Pethel in a garage in Venice, California. A color technologist for the film and TV industry by day, Pethel doubles as a mechanical savant, racecar enthusiast and obsessive inventor on his own time. Pethel has built a high-performance “green” car that goes very fast. His power source of choice? Two electric motors and five big lithium ion phosphate batteries capable of generating 800 horsepower in the blink of an eye.
Pethel has installed all this into the hollowed-out chassis of an early 1970’s BMW 3.0 CS. His experimental car can do zero to 60 miles per hour in approximately three seconds – but he also drives it quietly over city streets to his workplace every day.
Working under his green, super fast car at Elco Welding – Mike Pethel seems happiest here. One reason for making this car, he says, was to have something to work on for the rest of his life. If everything goes right, Mike will never be finished. Photo: Hugh Hamilton
After a ride in Pethel’s car, Alex Chadwick (left) can’t stop smiling. Photo: Hugh Hamilton
“if I just had a really loud car,” Mike Pethel says, “it might be exciting to some motor-head. But when you have an electric green, clean, quiet car, everybody likes it.” Photo: Hugh Hamilton
Two bulletproof glass cases filled with battery cells sit where the back seat used to be. There’s another box in the trunk. Photo: Hugh Hamilton
Although Mike Pethel (left) is a self-admittedly shy guy who enjoys the kind of introversion that can come with solving complex engineering puzzles, he still beams with every chance to show off his beautiful project. Photo: Hugh Hamilton
After a test drive, Mike uses an infrared thermometer to make sure his motors aren’t overheating. Photo: Hugh Hamilton
Mike Pethel installs a new differential, which distributes power from the drive shaft to the rear wheels. This differential is custom built to handle the huge amount of torque Mike’s car can push very quickly to the rear wheels. Photo: Hugh Hamilton
Under the hood of Mike Pethel’s BMW 3.0 CS, the space has been gutted, and now there are just a pair of homemade motors built into a huge metal pipe. Photo: Hugh Hamilton