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K-State Today

September 29, 2011



Good for escaping zombies or a gas shortage: K-State Salina student building electric vehicle

By Communications and Marketing

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, Kenny Ham will be outrunning the zombies -- but it remains to be seen whether his vehicle of choice will be a boat or an all-terrain vehicle that doubles as a street-legal car. Either way, both vehicles run on electric power and solar energy. That means Ham won't be relying on gas, which he says will be a commodity that will not exist in the event of an apocalypse.

Ham, a senior in mechanical engineering technology at Kansas State University Salina, and his brother, Michael, a physicist in computer vision research at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, design electric vehicles. Their latest project is the ApocalypsEV, an electric vehicle built with a zombie apocalypse in mind. Should the apocalypse not come to fruition, the vehicle could still prove useful as a prototype for future electric cars that are cheaper and use solar power more efficiently.

"We want to build an electric vehicle that everyone can afford," said Ham, who is from Lubbock, Texas. "Our ultimate goal is to reduce oil usage by providing a safe, roadworthy vehicle that could be used for short commutes, running errands, off-road fun, or surviving a zombie apocalypse. The ApocalypsEV is like the Model T of electric vehicles: It's cheap, basic and affordable."

Unlike the Model T, the ApocalypsEV will be available in several paint schemes. The base vehicle is a two-wheel drive featuring two hub-mounted 10-horsepower brushless motors, 40 watts of solar panels, a built-in wall charger and deep-cycle batteries. For safety, the car is equipped with five-point safety harnesses and a roll cage.

Optional upgrades include four-wheel drive with four hub-mounted 10-horsepower brushless motors, electronics hardened against an electromagnetic pulse, high-grade solar cells, extended range batteries and a locking trunk.

Windshields -- to protect against splattering zombie guts -- and gun rests -- for zombie-attacking weapons -- would be available by request.

The brothers estimate the base model will cost $5,000-$8,000.

"That's significantly less than what the automotive industry is selling electric vehicles for," Kenny Ham said. "The Nissan Leaf is about $30,000, and when you compare that to an equivalent car with a gas engine selling for $11,000, it's not very cost effective."

According to Ham, drivers of the ApocalypsEV would be able to repair the vehicle with inexpensive off-the-shelf parts.

"There's far less upkeep because electric motors are virtually maintenance free. In fact, electrical power systems are so reliable they have the potential to create million-mile vehicles," he said.

The Hams are ready to build a test car; they just need funding. As an added bonus to investors, they're offering a solar-charged, cordless zombie annihilator to anyone who invests $5,000 or more. The zombie annihilator is a chainsaw converted to run on solar power.

The chainsaw and ApocalypsEV are not the brothers' first foray into the world of electric vehicles. Their most recent project, TWEAK -- three-wheeled electric alternative by KinAestheticWind, the brothers' company -- was assembled during a class that Michael Ham taught at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos with help from his brother in 2010.

More information about the Hams' projects can be found at http://ApocalypsEV.com.

When not building electric vehicles, Kenny Ham also serves as president of the K-State Salina Solar Boat Club. The team of students builds a solar-powered boat each year and competes at an international competition.