The cars aren't wimps, built only to maximize miles per gallon. They would more than hold their own on an American highway. The modified Focus generates 140 horsepower and tops out at more than 110 m.p.h. The race car, called the EVX GT, creates 240 horsepower and tremendous torque, with a top speed above 150 m.p.h. and a superquick 0-to-60 time of less than five seconds.
"In my opinion, it's not difficult to get 100 miles per gallon," says Sekou Kamara, a senior and a team member at West Philly, who plans on opening his own auto mechanic shop someday. The lithium-ion batteries, he explains, are "sort of like what you use in your cellphone. They're extremely light, and you can get a lot [of power] out of them."
Sekou and two of his teammates, juniors Azeem Hill and Daniel Moore, spoke to a group of entrepreneurs at a recent conference on business innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.
"What's great is that we have 15 to 20 students on our team who are not just learning about cars, but they're learning about how to be marketable in a green economy," says Kathleen Radebaugh, an English teacher at the high school who serves as a volunteer for the X PRIZE team and accompanied the students to MIT.
She recalls seeing Daniel show up in her class one day "just covered with dust. I said, 'What are you doing downstairs?' He was sanding the frame [of a car]."