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Northampton Students Design Electric Car

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NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, N.C. — In the future, cars that run on something other than gas will have a major tie to North Carolina, thanks to a new vehicle testing facility. But some local high school students are already ahead of the game.

An old Ford car in Northampton County is racking up lots of miles without using a drop of gasoline. It's the product of high school students at Northampton County High School East.

"At one time, it had a gasoline engine in it, and we pulled that out and converted it into an electric vehicle," said student Tim Gubitz.

The students have converted three other cars to electric. Several 12-volt batteries wired together power each vehicle.

"The farthest we've gone is 113 miles, and top speed, we've buried the needle at about 85 (mph)," said Gubitz.

The electric cars shared a common thread with the groundbreaking ceremony on a plot of farmland near I-95. The land will become home to the Advanced Vehicle Research Center. Its main focus is finding alternatives to gas.

"Research into renewable fuels and ethanol and hydrogen that basically will be a large part of our focus to be able to support that research," said Advanced Vehicle Research Center director Dick Dell.

The U.S. Energy Department has funded a $1.5 million grant to the facility to research, develop and test automobile engines that will run on ethanol and hydrogen. And with consumer rage over $3-a-gallon gasoline, students like Gubitz already have an answer -- the electric engine.

"For me, I have to travel 30 miles a day, and I just simply plug up my car to a house outlet, and you don't have to pay for it," said Gubitz.

Gubitz hopes that kind of thinking from a high school student will land him a job at the research facility once he's out of college. The Northampton County facility is expected to create up to 2,000 jobs.

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