We've told you about the University of Kansas EcoHawks before. They're a group of engineering students from KU who are trying to build a car that will get 500 miles per gallon-equivalent. One of their ongoing projects is a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle that they've converted to be a series hybrid running on lead-acid batteries. Until recently, the car was charged by a biodiesel-powered generator, the biodiesel being made from waste vegetable oil (WVO) sourced from campus. Now, the mechanical engineering students have announced that their Bug's batteries are being charged by a solar charger.

The Bug is cool, but the real advancements are likely to come from the EcoHawks 1/8th scale, radio-controlled prototype vehicles. Six teams (one with the surprisingly un-nerdy name of "Team Slayer") are developing their own tiny RC vehicles. Dr. Chris Depcik, the student's faculty advisor, thinks that the RC cars are a great way for the students to experiment with radical design ideas:
The RC cars will allow students to test the limits of advanced battery and even superconductor technology to find out what is possible. They can explore all different types of fabrication materials and techniques while also giving them the freedom to design any style of vehicle they feel appropriate. This work will lead into a thorough understanding of the theory behind advanced vehicles that will be applied to a future effort of building a vehicle from scratch where we can optimize for miles per gallon.
There are some great pictures and videos of some hybrid RC cars kicking ass on a campus parking lot as well as some shots of the solar-charged bug on the EcoHawks website. Whether or not they ever hit 500 mpge is irrelevant. The fact that the University of Kansas is putting out more and green-minded engineers makes us wanna yell "Rock Chalk Jayhawk!"

[Source: KU Ecohawks]

Share This Photo X