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High school shop class puts auto industry to shame

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posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 11:43 AM
The american auto industry is finally starting to embrace the hybrid vehilcle. But even with all their engineers and R&D, they are falling far behind. They are being outdone not only by the carmakers overseas, but by a Philadelphia high school shop class as well.
One of the most impressive cars at this week's Philadelphia Auto Show doesn't come from Japan, Germany or Detroit.

It came from the auto shop at West Philadelphia High School.

The car - designed and built by students in the school's Academy for Automotive and Mechanical Engineering - delivers more horsepower than some Porsches and gets gas mileage comparable to a Toyota Prius. It runs on fuel made from soybeans.

Last year, the car was the surprise winner of a competition for eco-friendly vehicles, the Tour de Sol. The students, hoping to prove their success was no fluke, will enter the car again this year.

They'll be back despite an effort by school district budget-cutters last year to eliminate the program. It was saved by an outcry from parents and area auto dealers, who see the program as a source of hard-to-find trained mechanics.

The high schoolers' engineering feat may have observers wondering why Detroit hasn't already made such a car.

"This is off-the-shelf technology, and we're not 180 I.Q. people around here," said Simon Hauger, a physics teacher who is the West Philadelphia automotive program's administrator.

"We're super low-budget," he said, so automakers "should be cranking them out.

The top auto designers in Detroit have been slam-dunked by a group of high school kids from Philadelphia who built the K-1 Attack Hybrid, a sports car that gets 50 miles per gallon and can go from zero to 60 in four seconds. During auto shop class, the group took a Honda Accord chassis, a Volkswagen turbo diesel engine and a 200hp electric motor, and put together a hybrid electric/biomass car that runs on soybeans. Now the car has won a race and is getting big-time press coverage all over the U.S.

The kicker? It beats the gas mileage/performance ratio of any production vehicle on the market today. It’s been a bad news week for the U.S. auto industry: First, American automakers aren’t occupying any of the top ten slots in Consumer Reports’ recommended vehicles this year, and now this? Wake up, Detroit!

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

The article does state that the car has between $80,000-$100,000 worth of parts, so this isn't as earth-shattering as it seems at first glance. But keep in mind that this car is also built as a high performace vehicle. That budget could be subtantially reduced if the car was mass produced with lower cost components. Granted the infrastructure isn't really in place to support a biodiesel vehicle (i.e. gas stations), but the fact that the automobile industy is lagging this far behind high schools is insane. What's next, a middle school perfecting cold fusion?

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posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 02:06 PM
WOW. Wonder what took the philly kids so long? They have been building similar cars in Hawaii since 1972


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