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Goin' Electric

(July 2008) posted on Fri Jul 11, 2008

With a gasoline-free delivery vehicle, Decal Impressions has chopped its energy bills.

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By Angela Prues

The gas gauge on Decal Impressions’ delivery vehicle, a 1994 Toyota pickup, reads "E," yet shop owner Bryan Vielhauer cruises at 35 mph through Cincinnati streets. "The fastest I’ve gone is 75 mph," says Vielhauer, "Fast enough to get a ticket in any state in the Union."

His pickup requires no gasoline, no motor oil, and no coolant, yet runs nearly all deliveries for Vielhauer’s digital print and screenprint shop. An electric motor operates the vehicle, which drives as smooth as any standard transmission truck and as quietly as a hybrid.

The truck’s electric rebirth has been Vielhauer’s solution to swelling gas prices, and has helped decrease the carbon footprint that Decal Impressions (, a six-person print operation based in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood, is leaving behind.

Exhaust exhaustion
"I got really aggravated one day when I filled up my car and it was $70," Vielhauer says. "I could remember filling that same car with $30." That day, he recalls, he momentarily contemplated driving the 12 miles to work in a golf cart. Once he arrived at his shop, he looked around: "The UV-curing unit has huge motors with high RPMs," he says, "Electric motors have enough power to move cars."

With that thought in mind, Vielhauer-a longtime auto enthusiast-began planning an electric car to run Decal Impressions’ deliveries. He first turned to his operations manager, who had an industrial background and by May 2007 the pair had ironed out a concept for mating a motor and drive speed.

Vielhauer had spread the word about his plans when a friend called about a beat-up pickup at a junkyard. "It was a piece of junk," Vielhauer says, "It had no motor, was beat up all around, and looked like it had been in water a few times." It was perfect.

While the dents and dings on the truck body were being addressed, Vielhauer and team worked on the motor in the garage adjacent to Decal Impressions. "Basically, we replaced the internal combustion motor with a series-wound DC motor," Vielhauer says. Because the electric motor uses considerably less engine compartment space, he custom-welded brackets and then mated the new engine to the transmission.