North Haven Community School students have been working nights and weekends in a barn on the island for over a year putting together an electric car, and their handiwork will soon get a trial by fire as the vehicle participates in the 400-mile, five-day Tour de Sol.

Under the direction of science teacher John Dieter, junior and senior physics students are converting a 1986 Volkswagen Synchro Van, removing the gasoline engine and installing lead-acid batteries, monitoring electronics, and an electric drive motor. Along the way, this project has taught students about more than just physics, including applied electrical engineering, renewable resource awareness, environmental ethics, and practical fabrication skills.

Molly Hopkins, a junior, has gained “an increased awareness of environmental issues, including air quality,” and junior Mina Bartouics likes “the hands-on element, and plus we get to use it.”

For some writings of the class, including a discussion of the battery system and the motors used, go to

The Tour de Sol is an exhibition of green, alternative and reduced emission transportation, including solar and electric cars, bio-diesel vehicles, and one hydrogen fuel cell powered model. This year-round educational initiative culminates in a series of east-coast festivals linked by a road-rally style competition. Beginning in Baltimore on May 12, the tour will end in New York on May 18. Commercially available “clean” cars will be available for test-driving, and other custom vehicles will be on display along with other renewable energy products. Further information is available at their website, which can be found at