Students at the Union County Vocational-Technical High School have completed the schools' first 100% plug-in electric vehicle. The students converted an existing gasoline pickup truck to electric drive in their auto shop facility.

"The Union County Vo-Tech Schools have demonstrated leadership in introducing sustainable new technology to the classroom, and this latest project illustrates the value of preparing young people for new careers in the emerging green economy," said Union County Freeholder Daniel P. Sullivan.

As an all-electric vehicle, the pickup truck has zero tailpipe emissions. It can be charged by plugging into a standard household outlet. The students used an electric drive train and battery system made in the U.S. by Electric Auto Shop, Inc., a company that specializes in curriculum materials that train students in electric vehicle technology.

Vo-Tech is one of only a handful of high schools in the U.S. that have begun teaching electric vehicle technology as part of a hands-on automotive curriculum. Funding for the program came from a federal Perkins grant, which provides for innovative strategies to help prepare students for the workplace.

"Training students in the design, assembly and service of electric vehicles will provide an advantage as they enter the job market as engineers and technicians," said Patrick Mauro, principal of Union County Vocational-Technical School.

Freeholder Sullivan noted that the rollout of the newly converted vehicle is timely in light of the historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"This unfortunate disaster has stimulated public interest in cleaner fuels and energy conservation, to secure a more safe and healthy environment," said Sullivan. "This is a goal that the Freeholder Board has been pursuing in tandem with our green workforce initiatives, and we are very proud of Vo-Tech's contributions to this effort."

The school plans to use the vehicle in its daily campus service route and demonstrate its viability to the community, with the goal of encouraging more widespread use of electric vehicles. Plans for more student-built electric vehicles are in the works for Vo-Tech's fall 2010 semester.

"Completing the conversion and running a successful test-drive was a great learning experience for the students," said Course Instructor Gregg Force. "They are proud to be on the cutting edge of beneficial new technology that can lead to rewarding careers."

The Union County Vo-Tech school district serves students throughout Union County with nationally recognized academic programs and career development through five specialized schools located at 1776 Raritan Road in Scotch Plains. For more information visit