E-car leads to e-future

April 9, 2011

The speed is there, the high fives and the smell of burning rubber. What are missing from these rally cars are the gas fumes.

That is because Jeff Blackman's e-car engineering program at HRVHS produces battery-run vehicles - no petroleum needed.

This Saturday, car enthusiasts and engineering geeks alike can see the local e-car team compete with other regional teams during the Electrathon America-sanctioned rally in downtown Hood River.

Ian Baxter, a senior on the team, is competing at this year's series with a custom-designed vehicle, sponsored by Cloud Cap Technology.

"I used their sponsorship to try a new motor and lightweight batteries," said Baxter, who custom-built his car body from ultra-light woods and fiberglass sheathing.

"I want to be designing environmentally friendly power trains for full-scale electric vehicles in the future," added Baxter.

The e-car program has provided Baxter, and the other team members, with hands-on experience in designing, building and refining operational vehicles.

Baxter, who will be attending Kettering University in Flint, Mich., was responsible for recruiting Cloud Cap Technology as sponsors for last year's e-car program, as well.

Blackman acknowledges that his e-car program, like Ian's newly designed auto, depends on local sponsorship and companies who invest in engineering skill development for teens.

"Google and E & L Auto Parts helped us put together a solar-powered trailer this year to carry our eight e-cars to and from races," Blackman said. "It can charge the car batteries while they are stored. We are very thankful for the support."

Baxter has learned firsthand how much that support means - having crashed during the first race of the season in March, then rebuilding his frame and front end. He couldn't have done the repairs without the sponsorship.

"I've worked on this car about six hours a week since September," said Baxter. "When I crashed it, I just started again."

Thrills and spills are sure to follow with Saturday's downtown rally.

The course runs a loop, starting and finishing in front of the Full Sail building.

Streets in the area will be closed for practice trials starting at 8 a.m. The competition begins at 11 a.m. and will finish around noon.

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