ELECTRIC DREAMS: How a Group of Forgotten High School Kids Built the Car of the Future

Caroline Kettlewell, Author . Carroll & Graf $24 (290p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1271-7

In 1995 the Virginia Power company hosted a competition for high schools in the mid-Atlantic region to convert conventional automobiles into electric vehicles (EVs). As it happened, out of habitual disregard for impoverished Northampton County in North Carolina, the company nearly forgot to invite the eventual winners. Aided by a handful of phenomenal teachers, some uncommonly bright and determined students and a pervading regional interest in automobiles fueled by NASCAR, the county was able to outperform schools of far greater pedigree and budget. Of course, the widespread, reflexive negative expectations provided no small motivation to the kids of Northampton County. They mastered problems involving electrical wiring, battery longevity, welding and aerodynamics in converting a 1985 Ford Escort to the aptly named—in more ways than one—"Shocker." A resident of Richmond, Va., Kettlewell (Skin Game ) brings just the right regional flavor to a can't-miss true story reminiscent of the movie Breaking Away . The word "inspirational" is applied to too many books, but it comfortably fits this one, with its genuinely likable cast of unlikely achievers. This is essential reading for any serious environmentalist, as it makes the case that EVs might play even in the conservative South. Even more, it contains profound lessons that everyone involved in the educational system would do well to heed. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 290 pages - 978-0-7867-1485-8
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