A group of high school students, using a kit car body designed for high performance, managed to win the Green Grand Prix rally back in April by getting 160 mpg using an old VW engine running on biodiesel and a home-built hybrid system.
The West Philly Hybrid X team is made up of teachers and students, and the team is sponsored by U.S.-based International Battery. West Philly faced off against some stiff competition from big names like the Chevy Volt and Tesla Roadster, but their unique vehicle won the day. Using a GTM kit car body from Factory Five Racing, which borrows many parts from the Chevrolet Corvette chassis, the West Philly team forwent big-block horsepower in favor of the small and efficient 1.9 liter Volkswagen diesel engine. Found in VW’s from the late 90’s and early 2000’s, these engines are quite capable of getting 50+ mpg when driven lightly, and can be made to run on biodiesel to boot.
With the 1.9 liter diesel mid-mounted in the GTM, the team next mocked up a home-built hybrid system, using International Battery’s lithium-ion battery cells, broken up into four packs distributed across the car and providing 180 volts of power. The West Philly team managed to achieve about 160 mpg over 100 miles of continuous driving, better than the 90 other teams that entered. The next-closest result was only 106 mpg.
I love this approach to fuel efficiency. The GTM kit car is the perfect choice, being aerodynamic and lightweight. The 1.9 liter VW engine is a stroke of genius as well, and it isn’t a slouch, especially in the lightweight GTM body. Reportedly, the car is also pretty damn quick when the throttle is mashed, and I believe it. Hopefully this group of kids go on to bigger and better things. Not too shabby for some teenagers, eh?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.