sigma electric

In the spring of 2000 Topsail High School was introduced to the EV Challenge program by way of a demonstration visit of the program’s Chevy S-10 electric truck. The dynamic Harold Miller brought the truck to Topsail on a recruiting tour which was designed to pique interest in perspective schools to join the EV Challenge program. Harold demonstrated the truck to the technology classes at Topsail, instructed by Steve Garrett. 

The students, as well as Mr. Garrett, were impressed by the truck, program, and the professionalism of Harold Miller. The seed had been planted and within weeks Eric Ryan made contacts and sent information which initiated the beginning of the EV Challenge program at Topsail High School. From this point the challenge was now firmly placed in the capable hands of Topsail High School to develop and grow their own program.


The First Year

The first class involved in the EV Challenge program at Topsail High School soon found out that it was a challenge indeed. The primary challenge for the EV class was to raise funding for the conversion that lay ahead. We found out that if you didn’t have the necessary funds at the right time the program would never get off the ground. For example, if you need to mount the motor but have not raised the funds for the custom motor mount, you will have to wait, therefore pushing back your schedule to wire the motor or proceed to the next step in the conversion process. 

It was in the Spring of that year that we received a big donation from Schoollink which amounted to the sum of $2,000. With monetary support from other sponsors, our cost of conversion goal of $6000 was met.  Soon after, the class acquired its first vehicle, a 1996 Ford Ranger donated by Sanders Ford in Jacksonville, NC. From then on it was a race against time to convert the truck before the April deadline. Hard work and determination prevailed as students volunteered every spare second towards the completion of the truck. 

It wasn’t until Wednesday at 11:00 p.m., two nights before the final event, that the truck rolled out of the garage for the first time under its own power. Our efforts were not in vain, as we captured fifth overall at the final event in Raleigh and also garnered the “rookie of the year” trophy for best performance for a first year team. The first year of the EV program taught students at Topsail High School many lessons….the most important is that there is no room for procrastination.


The Second Year

The next year we continued to focus on our Ford Ranger, which we have converted from gas to electric power. After a full paint job, we began to make minor modifications to the truck including reworking the motor mount, and making many of the inner workings of the truck visible by using Plexiglas and other transparent materials. We also raised the battery boxes to cut down on wind resistance, and during this process we did an overhaul on the truck’s wiring, improving its quality and appearance. 

We also made an effort to increase public awareness about the EV Challenge program and the environmental benefits of electric vehicles. In this process we have visited several community service clubs and local schools, and have participated in roadside clean ups. We continue to endeavor in our goal to educate the public and help preserve the environment.  Our second year of competition brought us more success as we continued our winning ways by receiving three more awards at the final event in Raleigh.


The Third Year

This year our eleven member class has started a new project, a 1992 Toyota Paseo. Since this EV will be 156 volts, we will be participating in the modified class at the 2003 final event. So far this year we have displayed our electric truck at the Hampstead Spot Festival and at the North Carolina State Fair. At the Northampton EV Rally this year we placed 2nd in the auto-cross with our Ford Ranger. 

The auto-cross is a race of how fast you go around an obstacle course. We have been working almost around the clock to complete the Paseo by the April 11th deadline. With help from our sponsors we are making great progress in converting the Paseo.


The Fourth Year

Now in our fourth year, our class has only nine members. The Paseo project competed well in the final event in Raleigh, as did the Ranger. 

With a solid second and third overall in the final event standings our vehicles were dominant, missing out on first place by a mere 3 points. This year our focus is on modifying and improving our existing vehicles to tap their full potential. 

Both vehicles are undergoing extensive overhauls, including their internal components and their interior/exterior aesthetics. 

Our Paseo has become the new star of our EV program, as it has quickly shown itself as a force to be reckoned with. Despite a few minor setbacks earlier in the year, we feel confident about our upcoming performance in this year’s EV Challenge Final Event.


This year we finally held a ribbon cutting ceremony for our solar charging station that had already been in service for quite some time before. Several important figures were present, including Pender County Superintendent Dr. Marc Sosne and Bob McGuffey, Associate Director of the North Carolina Solar Center.


The Fifth Year

Our fith year began with set goals we wanted to achieve during this year. After a very sucessful showing at the EV Challenge Event, placing first and second overall, we were ready to move forward with our program by replacing batteries in both vehicles and converting a new car. 

Along the way we ran in to obstacles that threatened and changed our plans. Our truck motor armature malfunctioned the day after we brought it back from the state fair where it had been displayed. 

We rebuilt the motor with new components and also replaced the bearings in the car motor. We have also replaced all batteries in both vehicles and both are in top shape for our final event in Raleigh April 1 and 2.


We now have two Pontiac Fiero’s that we are going to begin working on.  One car will be a re-conversion and the other will be a full conversion that should be completed by next spring.

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