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In Gaza, electric cars offer a way around Israel’s blockade

Palestinian engineers say it only costs $1.50 per fill-up. Israel is also going electric with hundreds of charging stations to be installed nationwide.

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Engineer Fayez Anan (left) with a Peugeot he converted to run on electricity instead of expensive gasoline.

Mohammed Salem/Reuters

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While gas prices of $4 per gallon may feel steep to Americans, Palestinian drivers in the Gaza Strip have faced highs of $50 per gallon.

“The people here cannot afford that kind of money, especially now,” says Waseem Khazendar, who along with Fayaz Anan has tackled the problem by building an electric car. Their prototype – a Peugeot that runs for 110 miles on a single charge from a standard electrical outlet – costs just $1.50 a charge, Mr. Anan says. “We are trying to help everyone here get through a difficult period.”

A year-long economic blockade by Israel has created shortages of everything from gasoline to food in Gaza.

Anan’s and Mr. Khazendar’s electric car is a 1994 Peugeot 205 without a standard gas engine. It’s been converted to run on 34 standard lead-acid car batteries. At 15 horsepower, it travels at speeds of up to 60 m.p.h., and produces no emissions. “In Gaza [a 25-mile-long, 7.5-mile-wide strip], it is very sufficient,” Anan says.

More than 400 people in Gaza have lined up to have their cars converted for the fee of $2,500, he says. But due to the blockade, the duo only have enough material to convert another 30 or 40 cars, Anan says.

If a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, which began June 20, holds, Israel says it will gradually allow in the kinds of additional materials that Anan says would drop the price of the conversion to $1,700.

But US experts say they are baffled by how the two are converting cars at that price. “With the cheapest components I can imagine, it would cost around three times as much over here,” says Ron Gremban, lead engineer at CalCars.org, a Palo Alto, Calif. nonprofit group promoting plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology.

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