Kids Build Soybean-Fueled Car

The star at last week's Philadelphia Auto Show wasn't a sports car or an economy car. It was a sports-economy car — one that combines performance and practicality under one hood.

But as CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's Assignment America, the car that buyers have been waiting decades comes from an unexpected source and runs on soybean bio-diesel fuel to boot.

A car that can go from zero to 60 in four seconds and get more than 50 miles to the gallon would be enough to pique any driver's interest. So who do we have to thank for it. Ford? GM? Toyota? No — just Victor, David, Cheeseborough, Bruce, and Kosi, five kids from the auto shop program at West Philadelphia High School

The five kids, along with a handful of schoolmates, built the soybean-fueled car as an after-school project. It took them more than a year — rummaging for parts, configuring wires and learning as they went. As teacher Simon Hauger notes, these kids weren't exactly the cream of the academic crop.

"We have a number of high school dropouts," he says. "We have a number that have been removed for disciplinary reasons and they end up with us."

One of the Fab Five, Kosi Harmon, was in a gang at his old school — and he was a terrible student. The car project has changed all that.

"I was just getting by with the skin of my teeth, C's and D's," he says. "I came here, and now I'm a straight-A student."

To Hauger, the soybean-powered car shows what kids — any kids — can do when they get the chance.

"If you give kids that have been stereotyped as not being able to do anything an opportunity to do something great, they'll step up," he says.

Stepping up is something the big automakers have yet to do. They're still in the early stages of marketing hybrid cars while playing catch-up to the Bad News Bears of auto shop.

"We made this work," says Hauger. "We're not geniuses. So why aren't they doing it?"

Kosi thinks he knows why. The answer, he says, is the big oil companies.

"They're making billions upon billions of dollars," he says. "And when this car sells, that'll go down — to low billions upon billions."
  • John Kreiser

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