Fair Haven students fabricate hybrid car from ground up.
Gordon Dritschilo - Rutland Herald - June 16, 2006
Photo: Vyto Starinskas - Rutland Herald
Todd Ferguson (left) and Justin Severance take the Fair Haven High School hybrid car for a demonstration ride at the school on Wednesday.
FAIR HAVEN, VT. - The vehicle made a very uncar-like thrumming sound as Justin Severance turned it over early Thursday afternoon.
"That noise is the power brakes," said the 16-year-old sophomore from Fair Haven Union High School.
Severance was behind the wheel of a hybrid electric car he and 21 other students at the school had built from scratch during the past four years. As he began to drive, the thrumming gave way to equally uncar-like buzzes and chirps. When he came to a stop, the car fell silent.
"It's still running, but you don't hear anything," he said.
Looking on were several of Severance's classmates and industrial arts teacher Joe Watkins, who oversaw the construction of the car from the beginning.
"Some kids approached the principal to do something like this," Watkins said. "He thought it was a great idea. He formed a class called 'technology in action.'"
Watkins said he was tapped to teach the class, and at a meeting with the first students, the project was born. He said the students designed the car from the ground up using computer-assisted design systems.
"It's right from scratch," he said. "They built it from the frame up. It's not a conversion or anything."
In the front, under the hood, is an electric motor that Watkins said could run for 60 miles without recharging. In the rear of the car is a gas-powered motor that could extend the range of the car or recharge the batteries when stationary. He said it also could be plugged into a wall socket.
Watkins said they had gotten the car up to about 30 mph in the school parking lot. While they had not taken it off school grounds, he said he thought it could get up to 70 mph.
"I wish we could have taken it up to the airport," Severance said.
Watkins said he is retiring this year, so he pushed his current crop of students to get the car finished.
"I had my doubts," Severance said of the apparent likelihood of finishing the car back when the school year began. "It was a bare frame. The frame had been painted and that was it. None of the holes had been drilled or any of that stuff."
The students met every day during fourth period and put in extra time during study halls and after school. Despite problems with the brakes and the clutch, by early May, the students said the end was in sight.
"It's different from a normal vehicle," Severance said as he drove the finished product. "Just knowing that you built it makes it better to drive."