Steam Whistle brewing, arguably Canada’s greenest brewery adds to their environmental commitment with a custom-built, earth-friendly vintage ride. RETRO ELECTRO, a 1958 Chevy Apache Pickup 1/2 ton short box with side step, retrofitted with a high-efficiency AC motor capable of generating 465 foot-pounds of torque, is on par with the power of any gas-guzzling muscle car; yet emissions-free as it is Bullfrogpowered® with 100 per cent BC wind power. This will be no coddled show car for the brewery, but a beer-hauling workhorse and daily ride for Steam Whistle’s resident manager, Mike Kiraly, the brains behind the Retro Electro project.
Although the electric motor means this wind-powered hot rod will cruise in silence, it’s sure to make a whole lot of noise with car enthusiasts, beer drinkers and supporters of the environment.
When Steam Whistle Brewing launched their iconic green-bottled Pilsner into BC in early 2009 and hired long-time Vancouver resident Mike Kiraly to head up sales, the brewery shipped him the pride of their vintage fleet, a 1957 Chevy pickup. And while Kiraly, himself a vintage car enthusiast, was proud of the brewery’s reputation for green manufacturing, he understood that older engines were blowing a lot of black smoke. “What if we could take a sexy vintage ride, save it from the metal scrap heap and outfit it with a zero tailpipe emissions engine. Old-school style combined with a modern conscience.” And so Retro Electro was born.
After joining VEVA (Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association) and educating himself on electric vehicle technology available to BC residents, Kiraly was able to convince Steam Whistle Brewing to invest in the idea. Kiraly’s first order was to find a vehicle to host his electric motor build out. From a note left on his windshield, Kiraly found the 1958 Chevy Apache pickup and had it barged over from Keats Island just across from Gibson’s on the sunshine coast. Next Kiraly assembled an all-star crew to help pioneer this
dream: Vern Bethel – a lower-mainland maestro of classic car restoration; Joe Mizsak – a gifted mechanic and rare car restorer who helped University of British Columbia’s Alternative Fuels Lab build the first natural-gas powered vehicle in BC; Lloyd Wagner known for kick-ass custom hot-rods was enlisted for bodywork and paint; and Trevor Stoker, the lead engineer at Azure Dynamics supplier of Retro Electro’s motor and controller, shared his astounding knowledge of electronics and vehicle engineering. Getting this custom electric hotrod running called for the talent of Greg Murray of Electric Autosports, known for his expertise in EV conversions. Alongside Greg was Robert Shaw, an early member of VEVA, and an Electrical Engineer who has helped with safety features of Retro Electro including the precharge circuit and isolating contactors. Randy Holmquist from Vancouver Island’s Canadian Electric Vehicles supplied battery management hardware. Colin Bayne from IWE Rear Ends Only helped build a limited slip differential with low gearing. Stefanie Goodrick of Sign Me Up Designs provided the final touch by exquisitely hand lettering Retro Electro, old school style.
Powering Retro Electro was the next concern. Since 2007, Steam Whistle Brewing has been greening its electricity requirements with 100% green power from Bullfrog Power, so an invitation to join the Retro Electro project was extended to this green energy provider. In BC, Bullfrog Power sources 100 per cent wind power from BC’s Bear Mountain Wind Park. Twenty-four lithium batteries offer a 150km driving range and an 8-hour recharge period with 220V/30A service. The Retro Electro launch is well timed with the City of Vancouver bylaw legislating Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations in new housing and condo developments. “There is a wave of support for electric vehicles and I feel pretty lucky that I work for a company that cares about this stuff,” beams Mike Kiraly.
About Steam Whistle
Steam Whistle, an independent brewery housed in Toronto’s historic John St. Roundhouse, has a passionate focus on making just one beer of exceptional quality that Canadians can be proud of. They brew their refreshing Pilsner with traditional brewing methods and only four, natural (GMO-free) ingredients. Steam Whistle Pilsner is packaged in signature green glass bottles, cans and draught and is shipped fresh across Ontario, Alberta and BC to Beer and Liquor Stores as well as licensed bars & restaurants.
Steam Whistle has a reputation as a green manufacturer, the only Canadian previously named by bloggers in the list of North America’s greenest breweries, recognized in 2009 at the Green Toronto Awards for its energy conservation and use of alternative energy forms, and in 2010 as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for its culture of environmental awareness and exceptional earth-friendly initiatives.