Jonathan Lake was diagnosed with terminal cancer and gave her a few weeks to live. That was in 1995.
He still has more work to do.
The Delaware native takes on his lifelong passion for electric cars, and with his business partner Gregory Coles, who is also an electric car enthusiast, the two hope to change the automotive world.
The guys met two years ago through an electric car club in Delaware where electric car enthusiasts could talk about the store. “We got people together through word of mouth,” Coles said.
They soon realized that they had the same vision for the future of the electric car.
“I’ve always been fascinated by electric cars,” said the 67-year-old Lake.
He built his first electric car at age 12, using a washing machine motor, and caught the attention of Joe Biden Sr., a fellow automobile enthusiast, neighbor and friend of the Lake family.
“It wasn’t really pretty, but it worked,” Lake said. Joe Biden’s father fell in love with her. He thought it was the greatest thing.”
Lake gives credit to his grandmother, who started the Lake family business in 1929. “She loved electric cars because they didn’t scare her horses,” Lake said.
Thus, the Auto Archives began in Yorklin, Delaware. “A two-car garage in the middle of nowhere,” Lake said.
The business passed to Lake’s parents, and then to himself, where he learned all he could about automobiles and eventually specialized in bodywork. However, the chemicals and pollutants used in his chosen profession affected his slender body. In 1995, doctors diagnosed Lake with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, found tumors in his lungs and chest, giving him only a few weeks to live. “They sent a nursing home to finish things off, and yet I’m still here,” Lake said.
Not planning to slow down any time soon.
Leaving the hands-on part of the job was tough, but he stayed involved by doing car ratings and appraisals. “I always worked with my hands,” said Lake, a soft-spoken guy who also runs Green.TV, a media company he started in 1995 after he was diagnosed with cancer and his mother died. The channel features videos highlighting electric cars and other sustainable projects.
Just like Lake, Coles’ interest in electric cars began when he was young. Growing up in Virginia, he fell in love with remote controlled car racing in 2016. “I loved RC cars and thought they could be bigger. That’s how things started,” the 49-year-old said.
Just like Lake, Coles is a self-made man.
“I’m not an academically trained, classically trained person. I just learned that. I’m self-made, every part of it,” Coles said.
Joining forces when they did is pure kismet. Their goal is to change the world of internal combustion cars for a greener future. With Lake’s experience, resources, and tons of connections, Coles said they can make it happen.
Their biggest bond ever is spending most of his time in the White House these days, but he still gets the occasional visit to his North Shores home.
On a mild December afternoon, Coles rushed to Rehoboth Beach and pulled a 1970,280 SE Mercedes-Benz onto a flatbed trailer. Although the latest luxury cars are common on Rehoboth Beach and the 50-year-old can hardly catch a glimpse, Coles Benz ordered a parked by the boardwalk where passersby stopped to look inside the four-door and ask questions about it.
Coles graciously answered all of their questions, and chatted as he converted his Mercedes electric car. The bonnet appeared, displaying the custom battery with the Mercedes logo cover, and moved to the rear end of the car, pointing to the dual charging ports behind the license plate.
At $25,000 to convert an internal combustion engine into an electric one, Coles said his work mostly involved converting high-quality cars for people who had the money.
“That’s when you ask, is juice worth the speed,” he said. “These are sentimental projects.”
Coles said his 1970 Benz is too old, and he has to import parts from Turkey. A rearview camera is a high-tech addition, along with front seat airbags, an Apple Play with hands-free capability, and a motor that, he said, could rival a Tesla. A stick-shift type device is used to power the car, but some training is needed before it can be taken to a spin.
“I could leave this car in broad daylight, and no one would know how to take off in it,” Coles said. “Then if you go in, you’ll say, ‘You won’t start. ”
It’s my pleasure now that Lake is touring and promoting it. He just bought a Biden 1 license plate, and can’t wait to show it off to his old friend. Lake said he plans to drive the car to give it as much visibility as possible while promoting the nascent electric vehicle conversion industry.
“We will convert passenger cars all the way to fully electric tow trucks that save more than $100,000 over the average life cycle. And then they can be recycled again with recent updates,” Lake said. “We are adding to the new electric vehicle market by creating a support chain for new types of education and jobs from technicians at Del Tech to engineers and everything in between, here in Delaware and across the USA.”
Coles and Lake together want to change the world of cars. Armed with economic incentives, Coles recently purchased a 600,000-square-foot plant in North Carolina on the site of the former 58-acre Stanley Furniture Factory. The company will be called Auto Archive – in honor of the Lake family business.
“It’s a Class A degraded economic boycott, and they’ve offered incentives to bring in an environmentally friendly company,” Coles said. The population of the city is only 800 people, but we can employ half of these citizens. We are looking forward to helping the citizens there.”
Coles will serve as president and Lake will serve as CEO of a company committed to zero carbon emissions. Lake said the plant will be powered by solar energy, geothermal cells, fuel cells and wind energy.
Out of the business of converting specialty luxury cars, Lake and Coles wants to take the nation’s military out of existing work vehicles and make them electric. This includes last-mile delivery trucks, school buses, tow trucks, and food trucks.
“Anything that is used for commercial purposes. You get a return on your investment,” Coles said.
“This car I did, I did it for a rite of passage. To prove that it can be done. This is the part that goes to the business side.”
Coles actually built his first converted tow truck, made sure it worked, and was ready to make his business a reality. “Now we are ready to run on the ground,” he said.
1955 Ford F150 is his next project. “It’s a nice truck,” he said. The truck bed is equipped with a solar energy system to power the car. “It literally charges itself,” he said.
And then he plans to build a special electric car for First Lady Jill Biden’s birthday in June.
Always looking into the future, once men conquer the electric conversion market, they want to move on to creating hydrogen engines.
“The long game is hydrogen, but the sig is modified, only because it is so much needed. Hydrogen is nothing but an electric car with a hydrogen fuel cell instead of batteries. It is still an electric car,” said Coles.