MINDDRIVE, a non-profit after school program for at-risk Kansas City high school kids, has produced quite the educational feat through its Automotive Design Studio. Seven participating teenagers (and their 11 expert engineer/machinist/journo mentors from the auto industry) have put theory into practice, modding a Lola IndyCar chassis into a light-weight, electric-powered vehicle that is scheduled to embark on a coast to coast road trip early next year.
The trip, which starts out in San Diego, CA and ends in Jacksonville, FL, is roughly 2,400 miles. The team estimates that the car will need charging every 40 minutes, or every 100 miles. The charging schedule was mapped out by a student mentor to take advantage of a student-built mobile quick charging station carried on a charge support truck. The addition of a support truck may cost them some green points (they could have traveled up the west coast’s green highway!), but then the purpose of this vehicle is, in the words of Itoya McConnell, not only “… trying to prove that our car can be considered “road-ready” we also want to take this trip to get the word out about our class and the reasons why we build these amazing vehicles.”
The teenagers will be presenting the car in several cities and schools on the way to Florida (including Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans, among many), presumably to teach their peers about the benefits of electric vehicles. The fact that they learned about aerodynamics, physics, and automotive technology, and then applied their knowledge, is laudable enough. And perhaps the use of the charge support truck will stir up more attention on EV charging infrastructure.
The Lola EV is based on a 2000 Lola IndyCar chassis, which was wrecked in 2002. The students and adult mentors repaired the carbon-fiber chassis, constructed an ultra-light wire frame body, and finished it with a transparent, shrink-wrapped 3M window film. Lola carries 21 Lithium-ion batteries. Last year’s version nabbed them 300 MPGe; this year’s version is supposed to get 600 MPGe.
We’ll keep you posted on the project’s progress when the kids start in March of 2012. In the meantime, watch here is a video of the build: