FERGUSON TOWNSHIP — When Christie Clancy turned the key in the ignition Sunday afternoon, she was greeted by silence.
And there wasn’t much noise, either, when Clancy pulled the Chevrolet Volt out of the parking lot for another test drive.
Clancy, an administrative assistant with the Penn State Center for Sustainability, and students on the university’s EcoCAR 2 team, participated Sunday in National Plug in Day.
The event, aimed at introducing people to hybrid and electric cars, included free rides in the center’s Chevy Volt.
“It was very silent,” said Wei Zhou, a visiting scholar studying at Penn State, who just stepped out of the electric car for the first time.
Penn State student Taylor Kidd, who serves as outreach coordinator for the EcoCAR 2 team, said the event is a way to introduce people to the potential benefits of owning a hybrid vehicle, like improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
The university is one of 15 in North America competing in Eco- CAR 2, a three-year contest to reduce the environmental impact of a General Motors-donated 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
Kidd and the EcoCAR 2 team, who are still building the car, showed off the university’s original EcoCAR design at the event Sunday.
That vehicle can go 60 miles on a highway without using any fuel. Once the electric battery is depleted, a motor kicks on and starts recharging it, according to Kidd.
“That means if you work 10 miles from home you never have to use a drop (of gasoline),” she said. “And you’re not limited by range because the engine will kick in. You don’t have to stop to charge.”
The EcoCAR 2 project, which is in its second year, features a smaller vehicle, creating new challenges for the university’s engineering students. Kidd said the project, however, gives them a leg up.
“The point is these engineers are going to graduate already having knowledge of how to build a hybrid,” she said.
That’s good experience to have, Kidd said, in a market that could see hybrids and electric cars become more popular.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter