The 2006 Philadelphia Auto Show featured a biodiesel-fueled car built by five West Philadelphia High School students in the school’s Academy for Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. Constructed as an after-school project, the car can go from zero to sixty miles per hour in four seconds and gets more than fifty miles to the gallon. The biodiesel used to fuel the vehicle is also produced by the students and is made from soybeans.
The students built the automobile using a kit called the Attack, sold by K-1 Engineering. According to a February Philadelphia Daily News article, a Honda Accord donor vehicle was used in conjunction with the kit. The vehicle runs on a 200-horsepower electric motor located under the front hood and a 150-horsepower, turbocharged Volkswagen diesel engine located in the trunk. The car’s construction took more than a year to complete.
The money to create the car and enter competitions was raised through Philadelphia Academies Inc., a non-profit organization that expands options for Philadelphia public school students through career-focused programming.
“We’ve estimated that there’s probably between $80,000 and $100,000 worth of parts in the car,” said Simon Hauger, a physics teacher and the automotive program administrator at West Philadelphia High School. That figure includes carbon-fiber body panels donated by Hexcel Corp. of Stamford, Connecticut; wheels and tires from OZ Racing; and a $5,000 contribution from Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc.
Last year, the car won the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s (NESEA’s) Tour de Sol Championship. In the competition, a vehicle earns points over four days of events, and those points are used to calculate the car’s “green-ness.” Measures of fuel economy and climate change emissions are taken and performance is assessed in areas such as acceleration, braking, handling, driving range, and reliability.
The West Philadelphia High School team is planning to enter the car again in this year’s Tour de Sol Championship to be held in May.