Currently, our cars are:
- A recycled 1999 Lola Champ Car
- A recycled 2000 Reynard Champ Car
- A 1977 Lotus Esprit
- A 1967 fully converted, electric Karmann Ghia
- Four more Karmann Ghias – a family that are meant to be for sale to the public.
The two champ cars have the center tub and suspensions that were adapted to support a full-body and electrical propulsion system. The electrical components are lithium-ion batteries that total 72 and 96 volts. The first car had a 9” DC motor driving through a chain and sprocket system. The second car has a hub-drive that would increase the MPGe from 450 to 600. The cars each weigh approximately 1,000 pounds.
The Lotus Esprit was reduced in weight by about 600 pounds and fully converted to run on 96 volts using litium ion batteries. It was designed for 55 mph and had a range of between 60 – 80 miles, depending on terrain. The students and their mentors took this car on a cross country trek from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL in 2012 – the first high school group to accomplish such a journey! There were 40 stops and approximately 24 presentations were made by our students, speaking to other school groups, university and college groups, environmental organizations, utility companies and the general public in small towns’ center square. Most students experienced traveling by air and swimming in the ocean for the first time, leaving an indelible impact on the memories they hold of their teenage years.
The Karmann Ghia is a beautifully designed, timeless vehicle made by Volkswagon but no longer in production. The monocoque design of the body allows for easy repairs, the interiors can be fully restored with a consumer-ready interior kit, the frame is the same as their current Volkswagon Beetle, and the space in front and back easily accommodates the batteries allowing us to leave the back seat in tact.
The students and their mentors took the Karmann Ghia on a journey from Kansas City to Akron, OH for an educational experience on tires and rolling resistance by Bridgestone, and then on to Washington DC to meet with legislators and government officials. They were hosted by IEEE and the ASME and conducted a congressional briefing on The Hill with an audience of about 100 people. Their message was clear. Experiential, hands-on STEM education leads to the creation of important jobs and a sustainable lifestyle.
When we completed the first Karmann Ghia, it made sense to repeat the process. Everyone exclaimed how beautiful the car became! Taking a vintage car and transforming it into a 21st century all electric vehicle was worth repeating. So, we did four more! This time, we explored the Northern California Highway 1 coastline and visited America’s leaders in technology in Silicon Valley. Visiting Stanford University, Tesla, Google, Twitter, Humbolt State University, and many cities and high schools in between created an enormous sense of pride in the students’ accomplishments.
Electrathon is a national competition for high school students whereby the rules are set and parameters are upheld. The challenge is to design, build and prove the highest level of efficiency as tested in how far the car can travel in a one-hour time period.