Teenagers from a low-income school built a “badass” hybrid car that has outperformed other vehicles built by professional engineers and graduate students from Ivy League universities.
The “West Philly Hybrid X Team” is a group of 15 high school mechanics from West Philadelphia High School that built the 160 mpg (68km per litre) Factory Five GTM biodiesel hybrid kit car.
Yesterday, the ‘Hybrid X’ team were honored with the "Next Generation Award" at the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards, which recognizes visionaries whose innovation in the fields of technology, medicine, space exploration, automotive design, and environmental engineering is changing the world we live in.
The Factory Five biodiesel hybrid Kit car was one of two vehicles submitted into last year's Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize with the other being a converted Ford Focus petrol plug-in hybrid. Surprisingly, they made it into the semifinals beating over 80 teams.
Considering this “badass hybrid” was created by teens at a school where 85 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, the award-winning Hybrid X team surprised many including faculty advisor Simon Hauger who said: "Kids from West Philly aren't supposed to win the science fair."
"[In 2002], urban high school students realized that these cars were the future," said Hauger. "But they felt like something was lacking -- if hybrids were going to catch on, something needed to change. I challenged them to solve that problem and they came up with the idea of making a badass hybrid. Why can't a hybrid be a sports car that's fast and fuel-efficient?"
Not only was Hauger proud of their achievement but so too was US President Obama who recognised their success.
"These students, under the direction of some terrific teachers, entered a global competition against serious corporate and college challengers to build a production-ready car that runs on very little fuel. So as part of an after-school program, they worked to get their vehicles ready... At first, the adults didn't really think their team had a chance -- admit it. But then something strange happened. Where older and more seasoned teams failed, they succeeded..."