KINGSTON — Rich Rudman’s “mad scientist lab” is like a Radio Shack on steroids — wires, batteries, circuit boards and tools explode forth in an organized chaos only he and a few others understand.
“People at the Hood Canal Brewery know me as ‘Mr. Wizard’ or the ‘Mad Scientist,’” Rudman said with a laugh. His workspace is located near the brewery at the West Kingston Industrial Park .
With his new company, Manzanita Micro, he creates battery chargers which extend the life of hybrid car batteries for an indefinite amount of time. The only catch is in order to do so, the vehicle’s speedometer must not exceed 40 mph. Traveling at less than 40 mph allows the car to stay in the electric mode without having to switch over to gas, he said.
Using his background in engineering and electronics, Rudman is building his company from the ground up, starting with his lab and the reputation he’s earned in the electric vehicle world.
It all started when he helped create the E-Meter while working at Cruising Equipment. The device monitors a vehicle’s battery in a car and judges how soon it will need to be replaced. It also keeps track of other vital battery functions, like efficiency.
“I helped design it,” Rudman said. “I thought it would be cool if it could profit electric cars in some way. From there, it’s grown into this business.”
In May, Rudman was contacted by a friend who had a Toyota Prius converted with a similar battery charger. The charger, however, was improperly installed and as a result, the car was almost “fried,” Rudman said.
“We fiddled with it until it finally worked, and I thought to myself, ‘This may be something to work on,’” he said. “I wrote a scathing e-mail to the guys who put together the package for my friend, and about three hours later, I got a call.”
The call put Rudman’s wheels in motion. He had been able to solve a problem in the sustainable battery-pack that many engineers had struggled with. Suddenly, he was rocketing through the electric car world, even guest starring on the April 10 episode of Monster Garage on the Discovery Channel.
“There is an explosive growth in this area right now,” Rudman said.
His hopes of creating a successful business have been realized as demand is twice as high than he originally anticipated.
“Since I’ve started, I’ve madly been building them, trying to keep up with the demand,” he said. Long hours have been clocked on the back roads and subdivisions of the area, fine tuning the charger and testing to see how far it will run. “We’ve got it up to 15 to 20 miles if you go above 40 mph. If you stay under 40, you get infinite miles per gallon.”