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Automotive X Prize Video: West Philly Hybrid X Team tries and tries again

Consumer Reports News: May 07, 2010 02:34 PM

During shakedown trials last week for the 100-mpg Automotive X Prize competition, the student-run West Philly Hybrid X team showed tenacity and perseverance in the face of adversity.

This high-school team's EVX Ford Focus, powered by a two-cylinder, 80-hp Harley-Davidson engine paired with a 60-hp Azure Dynamics electric motor,  suffered a heap of last-minute mechanical problems. It was the last car of the day brought to the starting line of the 0-60 mph acceleration test. There it sputtered, backfired, and stalled.

Like pit crews at a 24-hour endurance race, the Philly team tried everything to get it running. One guy had his head under the hood and another sat in the passenger's seat with a laptop. Apparently, at least one of the problems was the fuel. In preliminary testing the team had used 93 octane, but X Prize rules call for regular 87. The engine finally fired up and under a lowering sun the team managed to just make the qualifying 0-60 mph time. When asked why they chose a Harley powerplant in the first place, one teammate said "because it's cool... and we wanted all-American components." Well, pass me a cheese steak and get me a Phillies cap!

Next the team drove the car to the accident-avoidance test. Following competitors with professional race-car drivers, it was clear that the West Philly driver hadn't had much experience with the double-lane-change exercise. But, with everybody watching, he kept at it and eventually piloted the course just over 45 mph without knocking over a cone, earning a pass. The whole team cheered when he made it. At the bar later that night, they all had that look of complete - but relaxed - exhaustion that good competitors wear so well.

For me, watching the Philly guys alone made the whole trip worth it. And if you've never heard a Focus roar with a throaty Harley baritone, you should.

See our ongoing coverage of the West Philly team. Also check our recap from this storied shakedown day, "Aptera completes the handling test, West Philly triumphs."

Follow our Auto X Prize coverage here in the Cars blog, as well as in our special Auto X Prize section and via Twitter @CRcars.

-- Mike Quincy

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