Driving to the $10 Million Jackpot
June 2, 2010
Its been a long-winding road for the West Philly Hybrid X Team (EVX)
. For 11 years, they’ve been building and racing alternative fuel vehicles. Now, they’re in it to win. The inner city team that’s partnered with Philadelphia Academies, Inc.
recently passed the shakedown stage of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize
, a $10 million competition to build the best 100 MPG vehicle. Of the original 111 teams from around the world, 22 remain including teams from universities, venture capitalists and automotive manufacturers.
With a smile on his face when asked what he would do if EVX won the competition, electrical and computer engineering
alumnus and academic leader of the team Simon Hauger said, “We already won. We engaged an amazing group of students to develop our vision about hybrid cars and how to improve urban air quality. We developed a business plan to manufacture our cars in our community and provide pipelines from high school to the good manufacturing jobs that Philadelphia needs.”
Simon works with several Drexel students and alumni in the EVX program. EVX is an after school program based in the Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering of West Philadelphia High School, a public high school serving one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia. Over the past 11 years, the innovative after school program has developed, built and competed with alternative fuel vehicles in a variety of regional and national competitions, winning the national Tour de Sol in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
The team is currently a contender in the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, an international competition to build cars that achieve over 100 MPG. Last year, Popular Mechanics
magazine ranked the West Philly Team – the only high school in the competition – in the top ten most likely to win this contest. Of the original 111 entries in this contest, only 22 remain. MIT is gone, but the West Philly Hybrid X Team is still in the race.
“We’re up against well supported organizations with teams of engineers. It’s like pitting the high school’s football team versus the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s amazing that we’ve come this far and are being taken as serious competitors,” says Keith Sevcik, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering as he works away at the car.
While the team has come a long way in the Progressive X Prize competition, they still reflect on the ultimate goal of their work. The team made up of students and teachers embraces two important educational principles: social entrepreneurship and educational democracy. The entry in the X Prize competition enables young people to address the most serious issues facing our world not only by designing a fuel efficient car, but by engaging their peers and their community in the fight for a future.
Over the past 11 years, members of the EVX Program have achieved a graduation rate of close to 90%, while the graduation rate for the Philadelphia School District rate hovers near 50%. While some students directly enter the workforce, close to 75% enter post secondary education programs.
The team can be found working every day on their official Progressive X submission known as the EVX Focus
. The Ford Focus hybrid can go from zero to 60 in less than 12 seconds and gets over 100 miles per gallon. It's safer than other hybrids, more affordable and uses off the shelf technology made in America.
“Applying the skills I learned at Drexel to help the EVX team has been a rewarding experience. Every day that we see students choose to come to the shop and work after school is a success for this team. We’re going to make it to the finish line,” adds Keith.
The team is always looking for followers and support. For more information on EVX, please visit EVX website