MET Students Complete Electric Car Project

President Dr. John M. Anderson receives the keys to the newly retooled electric car.Alfred State College students enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department programs recently handed over the keys to an electric car to College President Dr. John M. Anderson for campus use.

The history of the car is actually a lengthy one. In the early 1980s, Niagara Mohawk donated a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit that the company had converted to electric power. It ran for a few years under the direction of Yogi Jonchhe in the MET Department. The car was in and out of service until the 1990s. Since that time the car has been in storage. This year, the car was on the block to be sold for scrap. It was not running nor had it run in a long time. In an MET Department meeting in September, a "last call" was put out to the department regarding the car. Take it or scrap it. Matthew Lawrence, assistant professor, MET, had just started teaching an energy systems course, a seventh-semester senior class on alternative energy technologies. He jumped at the chance to use the car as a project for the class labs.

The class researched the process of completely upgrading the car with state-of-the-art electric components, and estimated the price of a full upgrade. The class then offered Tom Windus, director of Facilities Services at ASC, a deal: if he would pay for the upgrade, the class would do the upgrade then give him the keys to the car to add it to the Alfred State fleet. He graciously accepted the offer.

The class began by ordering two books on electric car conversions, as nobody involved had any experience working on an electric vehicle. Over the next 10 weeks, all 17 students in the class put in a tremendous amount of time, working outside of class on the car. The students replaced everything on the car from the power outlet put in place of the gas filler neck to the motor directly coupled to the transmission input shaft. The class was broken into five teams: (1) charger and batteries, (2) high-voltage system, (3) low-voltage system, (4) instrumentation, and (5) motor and motor mounting. Lawrence provided weekly goals, and used lab meetings to collaborate among the implementation teams.

The newly retooled car can travel 50 miles per charge, dependent on terrain and driving habits; can reach a top speed of 81 mph; can achieve 0-60 mph in 28 seconds. The car can be charged in four hours to charge on 220Volts, and eight hours on 115Volts.

On Dec. 1, the car, a set of keys, and an award of appreciation were presented to Windus.

“Without his generous support and belief in these students, this project never would have gotten off the ground,” says Lawrence.

On Dec. 8, Dr. John Williams, dean, School of Management and Engineering Technology, and Anderson and his staff attended the official unveiling. The students prepared a slideshow of the project and each team leader summarized his respective portion of the car. Furthermore, some students who were also enrolled in the department’s instrumentation course outfitted the car with a LabView system to monitor real time data. That class is taught by David Hunt, associate professor and chair, Electrical Engineering Technology Department.

Lawrence, justifiably proud of his students, notes: “Sometimes I get asked what a graduate of the Alfred State Mechanical Engineering Technology Department can do; now I think a better question might be what can't they do? These students can not only design, but they can implement the technologies of both today and tomorrow. That combination is rare, and should be celebrated!”

Students involved in the project included: Jonathan Butts, Rochester; Anthony Calvo, Plattekill; Chris Dalton, Elmira; Joseph B. Fiacchi II, Marcellus; Michael Gustafson, Warren, PA; Patrick Haskell, McGraw; Ryan Johnstone, Holley; Michael Marsigliano, Staten Island; Alexander Mason, Newark, DE; Bradley McClean, Lakeview; Matthew Messana, Tonawanda; Patrick Mohr, Limestone; Michael Naab, Lancaster; David Odle, Ontario; Travis Phoenix, Reading Center; Ryan Roberts, Sparrow Bush; and Brian Zintel, Silver Springs.