The West Philadelphia High School Academy of Automotive Mechanical Engineering is definitely not your ordinary high school extra-curricular activity. It is actually nationally known, due to the success of its Hybrid X team in the Progressive X prize competition. Teams across the country (not just high school, but many colleges and others) are competing to produce concept car that can go over 100 miles per gallon—and also be commercially viable.
The 100-MPG standard is an obvious tie-in to sustainability. However, the West Philly Hybrid X Team’s commitment to sustainability is incorporated in many elements of their entry’s design. Their mission is to “design and build a vehicle that will utilize existing technology in innovative ways to achieve ultra-low carbon emissions and ultra-high fuel efficiency. Unlike many alternative fuel vehicles, we will achieve these goals without sacrificing drivability, safety and style.”
They have 2 entries in the contest. Their performance (EVX GT) is “a performance minded hybrid combining power with sustainability and range.” Some of the design features include a diesel electric system. The electric motor is the primary source of power for under 50 mph. A VW TDI 1.9 liter is also part of the design. The car is also a biodiesel hybrid, and has an advanced filtering system to minimize its (carbon) emissions.
Their other entry is the EVX Focus, positioned as an everyday vehicle for young urban drivers. This car is a special type of hybrid, in that has an electric motor to drive the front wheels, and can operate on gasoline and biobutanol. It is a 4-door sedan designed to go just everywhere a sedan is supposed to go. Interestingly, it also uses proven technology, being built a Ford Focus chassis. The marketing aspect of this car specifically mentions an interactive dashboard for music and communications—appealing to the younger target audience. If the Hybrid X team has its way, this car will eventually be found in the parking lots of day care centers, farmer’s markets, and Ikea, and down the shore.
The students have the right ideas in terms of both the sustainability implications of their vehicle designs and the potential commercial success. In addition to environmentally friendly performance and design, these students are thinking of what can make their car commercially successful. For some drivers, it is the functionality around town; for others, the sheer performance and muscle. For still others, the mere fact that the car is a hybrid, with great gas mileage, could be enough. The Automotive Academy is proving that one can meld sustainability as a key part of terrific car design.
Hybrid X Team website: