EUGENE, Ore. — Major carmakers are just beginning to tap into the market for electric vehicles. But one group of students at Thurston High School has already mastered the technology. And they’re using it to drive their cars all the way to the finish line.
“We normally have about 24 kids sign up for the class,” said Mark Bray, coach of Thurston’s E-Car Racing Team. “It’s called transportation technology… the designing, building and racing of electric cars.”
Cars that every year become faster and more efficient. Running only on battery power, these racers can reach speeds of 40 mph — and they’re each completely built by students.
“They do all the welding, all the fabrication, all the electronics, all the plastic molding — everything.”
Bray has been coaching Thurston’s electric car team for 11 years. A retired elementary school teacher, he’s had a lifelong passion for cars and racing. It’s a passion shared by his students.
“It’s fun,” Brennan Sevey, a junior at THS, said.
Sevey doesn’t have a driver’s license, but he gets around just fine in the electric car. He’s the second member of his family to join the team.
“My older brother took the class and it interested me since I’ve been to some of the races just watching it,” Sevey said.
The same is true for senior Justin Harms.
“My brother did it when he was in high school, and I went to all his races,” Harms said. “It looked like a lot of fun. and this is actually his car right here.”
Each car costs about $2,000, but a lot of it, like the motors, is reusable from year to year. To make up the difference, the Springfield Utility Board gave Thurston a grant to pay for it all.
The race competitions begin in March, and there are seven races in all. Thurston will go up against teams as close as Willamette High School and as far away as Lacy, Washington.
“We normally have about 35 or 40 cars competing,” Bray said.
The races last an hour each, and the winner is the car that goes the farthest after 60 minutes.
“So it’s not just how fast you are,” Bray said. “It’s how far you go.”
And sometimes, Harms says, the challenge is keeping your feet off the pedal.
“Probably at the end, when people start dying and your car starts dying, knowing how far to push it before yours actually stops moving,” he said.
Bray says it’s all about teamwork and the art of compromise. Not to mention a passion for winning.
“Because it’s this race idea,” Bray said. “So it’s really nice to be around those kinds of students who are really committed to doing something.”