Topic: Former EPA Administrator at West Philadelphia High School
Date: June 26, 2009
Host: Tucked away on a small city block in West Philadelphia is an auto garage that may seem pretty innocuous to most people who pass by. But inside, big things are happening as students are working to build super fuel-efficient cars that may one day hit the consumer market place.
Host: Hi. I'm Lena Kim of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters – our series of podcasts.
Students from West Philadelphia High School's Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering are hard at work. They're building two hybrid cars that will compete for a $10 million prize, as part of an international competition for a new generation of super fuel-efficient vehicles.
These inner-city high school students are the youngest competitors amongst top academic and automotive industry experts worldwide. And yet, they are rated in the top 10 as likely winners.
Lisa Jackson, the former Administrator of EPA, made a special trip to West Philly High where she met the students and saw first-hand the cars they're building. She said their work on hybrid cars is significant to our nation's economic future.
Former Administrator Jackson: Your project's actually not about designing a car -- that's not all of it. It's actually about designing our future as a country. Ideas like these will determine our country's future and it will determine the pace at which we move to a cleaner environment and a clean energy future. It's also, as you heard earlier from the First Lady and the Congressman, about our economic future. Your work represents the heart and soul of green jobs. It's where the rubber meets the road, to use another bad pun, and new technologies that give us energy independence and that will revitalize our auto industry.
Many of you have probably heard that our domestic auto industry is in a little bit of trouble right now. From an economic stand point, they are hurting and you are actually the key to the ideas that will bring them into the future. And more importantly, you're going to grow up to want to buy the kind of cars you are designing right here.
Last year, EPA awarded a grant to West Philly High School to [enable] the students to visit our National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Center in Ann Arbor Michigan, and I'm proud to think that EPA had even a small hand in inspiring your work. And I hope that we can keep that partnership very strong. Ann Arbor lab is a center for innovation. It leads the country and in many cases the world in testing and evaluating new technologies in emissions control systems to fight air pollution.
Host: Azeem Hill is a student on the hybrid design team. He explained what's needed to win the $10 million grand prize. Besides competing, he said building the hybrid cars has a greater meaning to his team.
Azaaem Hill: For us to win the competition, we must build a car that gets more than 100mpg. This car can produce no more 200 grams of carbon per mile; it needs to accelerate from zero to 60 in less than 12 seconds. We must also be able to produce a minimum of ten thousand units a year. Last year the West Philly Hybrid X Team was rated in the top ten of popular Mechanics Magazine as being one of the teams that will most likely take home the big pot of cash in the progressive automotive XPrize. I think that most people see our team as a bunch of kids who just want to win a car race, but we are much more than that.
We knew this competition is not just going to open up jobs for many Americans in the automotive industry but, it will also prove that urban students are just as serious about protecting the environment as our government leaders are.
Host: As Administrator Jackson mentioned, last April, thanks to a $15,000 grant from EPA, the students traveled to Ann Arbor Michigan. The trip included a visit to EPA's hi-tech laboratory where the agency conducts testing to certify that vehicles and engines meet federal emissions and fuel economy standards. Team member Anita Davidson explained why the trip was very worthwhile.
Anita Davidson: Like Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, in April the team won its golden ticket. The ticket granted us access to the behind-the-scenes action at both the EPA testing lab and Ford's Global Technology Center. We received specialty tours of the Chocolate River and four course bubble gum lab of the EPA and Ford. These trips helped to further develop our business plan by giving us additional information that normal day to day consumers are not privy to. We spent an amazing afternoon at the EPA's National Fuel and Vehicle Emissions Lab. We saw the latest hydrologic hybrid technology which left a number of my teammates foaming at the mouth and another number of my teammates scratching at their heads. We also learned about the EPA's SmartWay Program that encourages businesses to find the greenest methods by which to transport their goods. The staff members at the lab were generous with their time and knowledge, answering all of our questions and explaining how emissions are checked in new cars and re-checked at various times as the cars age. What we learned in Ann Arbor will help us refine our XPrize vehicles to assure our victory.
Former Administrator Jackson: You young folks are ahead of the curve. You're pioneering change and you're showing us that the environmentally-sound thing to do is also the economically-sound thing to do. You know first hand that we don't have to choose between having a healthy green environment and having a healthy green economy. And while you're looking out for your national economy, you're also – maybe you don't even realize it – protecting your air in your local communities and helping us fight global climate change. So you're acting here but your impacts are being felt around the world.
Host: For more information about ways you can help protect the environment on the road, go to www.epa.gov And check out EPA's new SmartWay program where you'll find information about saving fuel, money and the environment.
Thanks for joining us on Environment Matters. EPA's mid-Atlantic Office produces this series of podcasts to educate the public on interesting ways that we and our partners are helping to improve the environment.