Hybrid hype

Six mechanical engineering students recently came into possession of a car worth as much as $15,000 thanks to Temple – but not to take it for a test ride. The students are working to build

Six mechanical engineering students recently came into possession of a car worth as much as $15,000 thanks to Temple – but not to take it for a test ride.

The students are working to build the next-generation hybrid car out of a 2001 Audi TT.

The 11-month project, nicknamed HEATT for Hybrid Electric Audi TT, has four undergraduates and two graduate students working to completely eliminate the standard internal combustion engine and build an experimental hybrid electric drive system.

“With this project, it’s pretty much what a mechanical engineer wants to do, just design and build stuff,” senior Pete Strahs said. “You get to work hands on and implement everything you were taught in class. The project requires a lot of energy and time on our part, but it’s going to be a great result.”

The project’s blueprint requires the vehicle to run off three sources of power: lithium batteries, a generator and polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, which use hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. 

The goal is to increase the efficiency, range and performance of the vehicle while minimizing harmful emissions.

The group chose the Audi TT for its lightweight, “smooth and curvy” frame, as well as its aesthetic and spacious interior, Project Adviser Dr. Parsaoran Hutapea said.

What makes this project so special, Hutapea said, is the opportunity to display the engineering program’s raw talent.

“Hey, we have a very good program here, and look, these guys can compete with any engineering kids anywhere in the states,” he said. “This shows that we have a valid program.” 

The four undergraduates, Strahs, Christophe Garant, Keith Schafer and Jordan Weaver, will satisfy their senior design project requirements with this endeavor. 

The assignment includes a group presentation to administrators, professors and peers, including a poster and an accompanying 15-page paper detailing what they learned through the experience. 

“One of the good things that Temple has done is allowing us to complete a project like this as undergraduates,” Strahs said. “Other larger schools would be more of a Master’s or Ph.D. project with undergrads in a supporting role … but here, with this project, it’s largely on our shoulders with support from graduate students in other areas.”

The doctoral candidates participating in the project are Georgiy Diloyan, a native of Ukraine who worked across Europe before coming to Temple, and Luis Breziner, who earned his Master’s in engineering from Temple in May 2009. Both bring extensive knowledge of PEM fuel cells.

The students spent an average of 40 to 45 hours per week working on the car this summer. 

Since classes began and while they await parts, the group spends 15 to 20 hours per week working in the composites lab on the second floor of the School of Engineering and Architecture building.

Before getting their hands dirty, the students used the month before the car’s arrival to prepare by perusing texts and watching YouTube videos on the dichotomy of the hybrid engine. 

The students said they hope to have the car electric by October and a working hybrid by April, when the design projects due.

As far as talking about the remodeling process, the team members are keeping their lips sealed. They said they hope to eventually apply for a patent on their reworked 2001 model and don’t want to risk giving away valuable strategies.

The car, which was made possible by an Extramural Programs grant of $250,000 and is owned by Temple, has an uncertain future after its completion.

“As the technology keeps changing, the car will most likely change with it,” Hutapea said, “and continue to be a guinea pig for future research.”

Tom Rowan Jr. can be reached at


  1. you guys should make it street legal if its not allready, get it inspected. have it be one of the project requirements. take it for a drive down brawd street.

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