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Maroon Focus: RC Electic Helps Change The Auto Industry

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Staff Writer

“Classic for Tomorrow,” Roanoke College’s motto, was the idea for a new on-campus organization.

RC Electric was an idea developed by a group of students in the Environmental Science Department. The goal of the organization was to convert a classic 1939 Pontiac Silver Streak into an electrically-run automobile.

“You can buy an electric car on the market these days, but the cool thing is we are going to do it ourselves,” said Ryan Montoni ’12, member of RCE.

President of RC Electric, John Honchar ’11, said he wanted to take a ‘green initiative’ on the RC campus. RCE’s car can be a beacon for the college, showing other institutions that our school can compete with them insofar as innovative ‘green’ ideas.

The primary goal is to create an electric car, but ultimately change the school in order to be energy conscious.

RC has already taken strides towards being environmentally friendly with the renovations in Lucas Hall. The building itself is constructed from recyclable and reusable materials.

The electric car is just the beginning of RCE’s plan to expand the use of renewable energy around campus.

As of now, a majority of the school’s electricity is generated through the use of fossil fuels. RCE is an advocate for creating alternative methods of power consumption for the college.

Ideally, the organization would like to build an electrical recharging station and slowly convert gas powered campus vehicles into electric. Other ‘green’ organizations have been receptive of RCE’s plans such as the campus proactive environmental group, Earthbound.

RC Electric was approved by the college before the spring semester and has already put a down payment on the car. The group is currently working on the first phase of the project, stripping the interior of the car, and putting on the first coats of primer. This phase is expected to be completed by the beginning of the fall term of 2011.

The next phase will be trying to acquire grants for the electric motor. This will replace the traditional gasoline-powered motor. General Electric builds an AC converter that fits the specifications for the car and RCE is asking local businesses around the valley to donate. The expected cost for the second phase is $20,000, Honchar said, which will be accumulated through grants. The money for the electronic converter is expected to be raised by 2012.

Though the total electric conversion of the car is projected for 2016, the date is dependent on student involvement. RCE’s advisor and Associate Professor of Biology Jon Cawley said the car is more than a symbol of RC, it is a hands on learning experience.

“This car is real. That is what I want my students doing…something they can touch,” Cawley said.

Currently, there are only 14 members working with the campus organization. RCE is an open organization. If you would like more information or wish to be a part of it, please contact John Honchar- jahonchar@mail.roanoke.edu