- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

SUN VALLEY, Idaho (AP) - Community School students raised the funds and did the research, and after days, nights and weekends of work, completed the transition of a 1997 Chevy S10 into an electric vehicle.

In an interview last week, teacher Scott Runkel pointed out all the details that his students worked on, from the metalwork to the wiring, saying, “All of these things have hours and hours of work behind them, and every little part took time.”

Runkel’s upper school environmental science class started working on the project last fall, and finished it at about 9 p.m. Feb. 22.

The students created the car to be used as an educational tool for students around the valley, highlighting the environmental impact of electric vehicles, or EVs, and how the cars work. Students had to start in the classroom, however, learning what it would take to build an electric vehicle and raising money for the project through a gear sale, a dance and presentations to nonprofits.

Runkel said it was great class for students who had to leave town for ski competitions because they could do a lot of research before coming back to work on the car. Spencer Wright, a senior on the ski team, said he could leave with his team, research while he was away, and jump right back into the project when he returned.

Runkel said his students ended up knowing a lot more than he did.

“All I had to do was go to the hardware store and make sure no one hurt themselves,” he said.

Junior Keegan Webber was the electrical engineer of the project. He pointed out different areas under where the hood used to be, noting the two translucent tubes filled with bright green coolant. Then, he flipped a switch just below where the hood would meet the windshield, climbed into the cab, and started the truck. It hummed to life, and then Runkel told him to start running the tires. The wheels spun forward, and everyone smiled.

“Now go backwards,” Runkel said, beaming.

Oliver Guy, a junior, said the engine generates about 50 horsepower and the car should be able to go up to about 70 mph once it hits the road.

Blake Deilke explained that in the back, where the bed of the truck would be, he and others welded a frame to support boxes of batteries. Students had to learn how to weld and figure out which gauges of metals were needed. Guy added that the class is still going to install a battery management system, which would make sure the batteries disperse energy in a safe way, because otherwise “you could have a lithium fire.”

Runkel said the group had countless helpers donate time and money to the cause. He said those included helpers such as conversion expert Wayne Anderson, Sun Valley Auto Club owner Dave Stone, Bob Wiederrick of Wiederrick’s Custom Metalworks & Fire Screens, Dan Singh of Epic Car Conversions, PK’s Ski and Sports and philanthropic group 100 Men Who Care, which donated $7,700.

“You can’t do something like this by yourself,” he said.

The students said the truck will still need finishing touches such as a fresh coat of paint and a Plexiglas shield to protect students from zapping themselves on the battery components or wires.

Senior Peter Wolter said the students will also work on lesson plans about the vehicle with the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum, and have already tested one such plan with Community School third-graders.

“A huge aspect of this project will be to teach kids around the valley about the importance of being environmentally conscious,” he said in a news release from the Community School. “If we can inform younger generations, there’s hope for a sustainable future.”


Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, https://www.mtexpress.com

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