The mission of the car is far greater than a single science class, however: students plan on using the vehicle as an on island shuttle for both visitors and small classes. There are also plans to compete in next year’s Tour de Sol, a festival of solar, electric and “green” vehicles. Dietter hopes the vehicle can “visit other area and island schools as both an ambassador to North Haven as well as an example clean transportation for others to follow.”
The first step of the project was to assemble the needed materials including a vehicle for conversion, electric engine, batteries, a handful of electrical components and the money to fund the project. Of course the needed know-how had to be found as well.
This first phase of the project was performed by last year’s junior and senior classes. “The students were involved in all aspects of the project, they made the phone calls, found the parts they needed, and wrote the checks,” said Dietter.
Currently, students are assembling the electrical components in the vehicle. The vehicle they chose was a 1986 Volkswagen van with four wheel drive. The students wanted a vehicle that could carry six people as well as be used in the winter months.
Molly Hopkins, a junior at North Haven Community School, feels that she has an “increased awareness of environmental issues, including air quality, as a result of the electric vehicle project.”
Mina Bartouics, also a North Haven junior, said, “this project has been much more than a car — it’s a mixture of many different lessons.
“It’s wonderful to learn about electric vehicles and electrical engineering, but I walk away with much more if I actually do it, I like the hands-on element,” she said, “and we get to use it.” That’s something not all high school students can say about their physics experiments.
The final phase for the project will be to develop enough generating capacity for the car so it won’t need to be connected to the power grid. Students have already received the tower for a wind generation unit and are beginning to research solar power possibilities.
North Haven senior Amanda Lantagne believes that the “strong sense of community developed by the island environment has helped a great deal and many local residents have contributed to the project.” She sees the car as “a way for the island to demonstrate its self-sufficiency.”