Technology

 

The Rossmy FAMILY drives into the future

When Norbert Seibt joined TÜV SÜD Auto Service 17 years ago, electric cars were a distant vision. Today, hobbyists like the Rossmy family turn gasoline-powered cars into electric cars on their own. In Lower Bavaria and the Chiemgau, Seibt took on remodeling projects like this – and at the same time is making his own dream a reality. 

Text Thomas Schmelzer Photos Konstantin Eckert

When Norbert Seibt speaks about electric cars, the technical terms and his enthusiasm bubble out of him. Seibt then talks about adapter plates and motor mounts, about EMC certificates and vacuum pumps. Above all, however, he describes the feeling of gliding along the streets of his Bavarian homeland in an electric car like his. “You almost float over the asphalt,” he raves. “Once you’ve experienced this, you’ll never want to go back to a gasoline engine.”

Seibt, 57, has found his passion – and lives it out in his profession. The expert and trained automotive mechanic in Lower Bavaria is inspecting more and more electric cars from hobbyists for initial registration in addition to inspecting other vehicles for TÜV SÜD Auto ­Service. When he joined TÜV SÜD in 2001, electric cars only rolled down the street in science fiction films. “I would never have thought that one day I would be inspecting cars like this at the PTI station in Eggenfelden almost every week,” says Seibt.

Things changed when an inventor from the region began to turn decommissioned collectible cars into electric cars. First an old Fiat 500, and later a Volks­wagen Beetle. The only guideline he followed was a TÜV SÜD data sheet. After the projects were finished, the vehicles just needed to pass inspection. The first electric car rolled into Norbert Seibt’s inspection station. “I immediately fell in love with the concept,” Seibt remembers.

 

 

One of the almost 100 electric cars that Norbert Seibt has inspected is the Rossmy family’s E-Cooper. 

More and more electric vehicles

Seibt attended continuing education courses, read up on the subject in trade publications, and inspected his first cars retrofitted to run on electricity shortly thereafter. At the time, ten years ago, a maximum of three to four such cars rolled into his workshop each year. Today there are just as many – per month. “When an electric car comes into the PTI station, it’s an exciting feeling every time,” says Seibt. He now belongs to a small circle of experts who have particular expertise in retrofitted electric vehicles. The hobbyists make a pilgrimage to him from all over Germany. One project that Seibt can still precisely remember now comes rolling up the small hill to the Rossmy family home in Bad Endorf am Chiemsee on one of the last late summer days of the year. You can hardly hear a sound – just the crunching of the gravel under the tires. The car stops in front of the wooden garage door and Paulinus Rossmy gets out. The 20-year-old is just coming from work in nearby Rosenheim.

Paulinus, together with his brother and father, built this electric car out of a used Mini Cooper three years ago. E-Cooper is what the Rossmys call their project: 30 interconnected battery blocks, dozens of cables, mounts they made themselves, 16 kilowatt hours of power, and a range of 100 kilometers and beyond.

If you don’t risk anything, you don’t learn anything either.

Three and a half years ago, when Paulinus and his family were having dinner together and came up with the idea of building an electric car, implementation of this dream was still a long way off. But once the old gasoline engine had been removed from the Cooper, there was no turning back. While his friends were heading out to the lake in the summer, Paulinus and his father and brother Vinzenz were working on their own project in the garage. One year and 200 working hours later, the E-Cooper purred out of the Rossmys’ driveway. Now only one hurdle remained: getting the car through its first inspection and registration. Because the Rossmys had heard of Seibt’s expertise, they went to him.

“Just looking at the car, you could see that the family members had really put everything they had into it and ­really identified with the project,” recalls Norbert Seibt. On this summer day, he is visiting the Rossmys to talk and reminisce about the old project once again. In front of the wooden garage door, he opens the hood of the electric runabout. As was the case three years ago, Seibt is satisfied. All cables are neatly laid, not a screw is loose. Large stickers in the driver’s cab indicate the important emergency stop switch.

 

 

Seibt demands safety

Not all do-it-yourselfers work so carefully. Seibt has seen many mistakes in the nearly 100 electric cars he has inspected. “People put blinders on while they are building and just forget to do things,” says Seibt. Seibt sends many tinkerers back home to make improvements. “Of course I have high standards so that I can always guarantee safety,” the expert says.

In order to keep from losing track of everything, he has boiled his experience down to an inspection catalog for the first inspection and registration: six pages on which he takes note of everything – from the customer’s name to the battery type through to the installation locations. In addition, he includes practical tips for the hobbyists and the necessary regulations. With this cumulative knowledge, Seibt is fulfilling his own dream: at home, he is transforming an Audi A2 with engine damage into a climate-friendly electric car. “I knew immediately that this would be my car,” says Seibt.

In the meantime, Seibt has installed dozens of Tesla batteries. That’s enough for almost 200 kilometers and has cost Seibt a good chunk of change. The project is worth every penny to him – because he is also acquiring more and more detailed knowledge in the process. “If you don’t take any risks or try to do anything new, you don’t learn anything,” he says. But that’s exactly what his job is all about. “I want to be on an equal footing when I talk to my customers,” says Seibt. “After all, that’s the only way I can be there for them.”