PHILADELPHIA HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, PART OF A TEAM WITH YEARS OF EXPERIENCE BUILDING HYBRID VEHICLES, ARE COMPETING FOR A $10 MILLION PRIZE.
Twelve years ago, Simon Hauger started what is now the West Philly Hybrid X Team electric vehicle club to help students put math and science to use. Twenty Philadelphia high school students are in the auto club, which receives help from students of West Philadelphia High School’s Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. The “ultimate goal is to get where we can integrate what we do into a regular school day,” explained Ann Cohen, team manager.
The auto club’s mission is to build a vehicle that utilizes existing technology to achieve ultra-low carbon emissions and ultra-high fuel efficiency, without sacrificing drivability, style, and safety. Members started with a science fair entry and then developed an alternative fuel vehicle for the National Tour de Sol contest, winning in 2002, 2005, and 2006. They currently are in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE contest for creating a 100-mile-per-gallon vehicle. “The amount of experience and exposure they get is amazing,” revealed Cohen.
PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE AUTOMOTIVE X PRIZE
The Automotive X PRIZE competition’s goal is to inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles that help break reliance on oil and stop climatic effects. This high school team is one of 41 preparing cars for the next rounds, including track events starting in April. The competition is in two classes.
An entry must be affordable and mass produced. The club built a 5-passenger vehicle on an economy car chassis. It runs on gasoline and biobutanol. The powertrain has a 2-cylinder Harley-Davidson® engine and 60-horsepower Azure Dynamics electric motor with a lithium ion battery pack.
The club built a biodiesel car for this class, which has fewer performance and design restrictions. This GT came as a Factory Five GTM kit and features a 1.9-liter direct-injection diesel engine with Azure Dynamics electric motor and battery pack.
Subaru of America, Inc. donated money to help with costs for the competition, since the team has no school funding and relies on private contributions. These grants and private donations assist in paying for materials, parts, and entry fees.
Many of the team’s students go on to college, while others go directly into automotive professions. Their graduation rate is higher than the area’s mainstream high school students, who have a 50-percent dropout rate. Club members are “doing something they really like and are surrounded by adults who respect them and give them opportunities,” commented Cohen.