Philadelphia students build fuel-efficient hybrid car

Fri Oct 2, 2009 9:39am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA Oct 2 (Reuters Life) - Standing in a garage on a West Philadelphia backstreet, Stefon Gonzalez is sure his team can win a $10 million prize to build the best super-efficient, mass-production hybrid car.

Gonzalez isn't an engineer, an academic or an executive from an automaker. He is a 15-year-old student at West Philadelphia High School who is part of a student team that is hoping to win the top prize in the prestigious international Progressive Automotive X Prize competition.

Students at the school's Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering have previously won a series of national awards for building cars that are not only extremely fuel efficient, but are also reliable, quick and even stylish.

Now, they are going for the big one -- the Automotive X Prize. It requires entrants to build cars that can do at least 100 miles per gallon, can be produced in quantities of at least 10,000, and are safe and reliable. The West Philly Hybrid X team is the only high school competitor in a field of about 90 teams from the U.S. and overseas.

"I know we're going to win," said Gonzalez. "We've got a good history of winning competitions and we've got the engineering background and the experience."

In 2002, 2005 and 2006, the team won the Tour de Sol, a competition for production hybrid or bio-diesel vehicles to drive at least 150 miles (xx km)at the energy equivalent of 100 miles per gallon or better. On its first attempt, it beat 40 other teams, including one from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This time, their rivals include a team from Cornell University, an alliance of engineers from Ottawa and Silicon Valley, and a group led by an inventor whose credits include voice-recognition software for the BlackBerry.

The field will be reduced by about half on October 19 -- a cut the Philly team is confident of surviving. The final winner will be decided in 2010.   Continued...

<p>West Philly Hybrid X team members look into the power plant compartment a Ford Focus which is under conversion for the Automotive X-Prize competition at the team facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 24, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer</p>