Busy as life is in high school, at least eight Waiopehu College students, ranging from years 9 to 13 are putting in extra hours after school to take part in the recently launched EVolocity Challenge - designing, building, racing and testing an electric vehicle.

EVolocity has barely laid down the gauntlet for this year and a team of eight boys from Waiopehu College is already hard at work discussing what they want to build.

The competition began five years ago in Christchurch to give students the skills and knowledge to build and maintain electric vehicles.

"It is about sustainability as well as design," said EVolocity CEO Debbie Baker, who lives in Foxton Beach. "They can make use of the knowledge we have and they also have the support of the UCOL engineering team."


Queen Elizabeth College, Ngā Tawa and Rangitikei College attended the launch of this year's competition in Palmerston North. In Horowhenua Waiopehu College is ready to go for the challenge.

Students must design and build an electric vehicle and then test it. A crucial element in this is how long the vehicle can run for. Onboard data needs to be collected including stats about engine efficiency.

"This is not just about electrifying a bicycle," said Baker. There is usually a variety of two, three and four-wheeled vehicles in the competition.

"Innovation is very important," she said. One example of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking from last year was a solar-powered charging station built by one of the teams.

The competition is a partnership between EVolocity, Orion, Enviroschools, Assist Energy Ltd, ETCO, University of Auckland and MeloYelo.

Participating teams are provided with a standard electric motor kit and their creation needs to be tested in a head-to-head drag and deceleration, do a street circuit, show vehicle economy and best overall performance of the controller.

Awards include the innovation challenge for collection and display of vehicle performance data, the innovation challenge for engineering excellence and innovation, the Pitch award, a 30-second commercial conveying the benefits of electric vehicles and the EVangelist award for effectiveness of the pitch delivery using YouTube, Facebook, unveiling events, newspaper articles and sponsor recognition.

Teams must follow specific design and safety guidelines and need to pass scrutineering before being allowed to race.


This year 100 schools and 700 students around the country will be participating. The regional finals are in September. A national final will follow later.

Waiopehu Students Ben Douglas, Callum Mitchell, Logan Canty, Farris Kinaston-Smith, Finlay Metcalfe and Jeremy Healy immediately signed up.

Their team is slowly taking shape and much to the delight of the teachers, such as Tamsin Isaac and Chris Kennedy, the group comes with a wide range of skills, interests and ages as the team includes students from all years.

There are students who enjoy design, some who are great at computer coding, while others are great at engineering.

"Eight were very keen on this project immediately and more are showing interest," said Kennedy.

Callum Mitchell said he enjoyed engineering and design and had been involved in designing and building a wind turbine last year.

"I enjoy the critical thinking side of the project and like learning new skills."

Farris Kinaston-Smith said he likes making stuff. His speciality is automotive engineering.

"I come from a farm where we have lots of fossil fuel vehicles we need to get out of."

One of the younger team members is Jeremy Healy who said he's in it to learn as much as possible. He likes automotive stuff and he already has some building experience.

"At home I built a go-kart with my dad. This team is great for getting ideas and to get experience."

Overseeing the team is Tamsin Isaac, the school's engineering teacher, who has done such a project before, in the UK and at least once had a team that made the final.

"Electric vehicles are a growing industry and it draws on lots of different subjects."

Chris Kennedy said they have only just started, the kit hasn't arrived yet but the boys have their pencils, paper and other tools out already and are tossing up ideas. It is an area many young people are passionate about, he said.

"We may even enter two teams and two vehicles. We do not know at this stage. We are letting the students' passion drive the project. We'll see what we end up with."

The team can't wait for their kit to arrive and while they'd love to learn they have also caught the competitive bug.

"We're in to win."