EPA Head Praises West Philadelphia H.S. Automobile Design Efforts
[KYW-1060 Radio] The Philadelphia-born head of the Environmental Protection Agency toured a hotbed of green technology on Monday, in the auto shop of West Philadelphia High School. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, recently appointed by a president promising change, wants to change absolutely nothing for a group of West Philly High auto engineering students who have been stunningly successful. West Philly High's Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering, which has already won three solar car design competitions, is now a surprise contender in the $10-million "X-Prize" competition for a 100-mpg (or better) car, facing some heavily moneyed engineering think tanks. Student Jacques Wells described some of the students' work: "The first is our four-passenger Ford Focus powered by eletricity and biobutanol, which is a second-generation biofuel that has many advantages over ethanol. The second vehicle is a factory five GTM sports car, powered by the same electric motor and battery pack that would be colupled with a Volkswagon TDI engine that would run on Pennsylvania biodiesel." Jackson (facing away from camera above) is impressed with the level of savvy at West Philly High: "I go all over, talking to adults, trying to make them get it, and these kids were telling me, 'Well, it's not just about what we build. It's about making sure it's something people want to buy.' Listen, at this point, we know the green economy's coming. These kids are ahead of the race." Team director Simon Hauger started this program 11 years ago as a way of challenging the kids, but now has three Tour de Sol solar car championships under his belt: "I never imagined that we'd be the first team of color in the largest alternative vehicle race in the country. I never imagined that we'd beat teams like MIT and private race teams and even corporations. I never imagined that the X-Prize competition would come to pass and that we'd be ranked in the top ten teams.
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