|Imagine driving from New York to Washington on one gallon of gas. It may sound far-fetched, but a 17-year-old took the challenge.
Rami Bedewi of Potomac, Md., enjoyed building model cars as a child. The hobby continued in high school, when as a student at Georgetown Preparatory School he decided to build a vehicle he could actually drive. But what?
“You know, everyone wants to have an exotic sports car, but then I became more realistic, thinking, ‘Well, what would be more practical in the world today?’” he said Saturday, standing near his creation on display at the 2013 Washington Auto Show.
Mr. Bedewi settled on a one-seat hybrid that could travel the 230 miles from New York to Washington using a battery-powered motor and one gallon of gas. He called the project the “One Gallon Challenge” and said he spent two years tinkering with shelf components after school and on weekends.
The Web site 1gchallenge.com describes the technology this way: “The electric motor of the car directly powers the wheels, and the gasoline engine serves as a generator to charge the batteries.”
He said there were a few mishaps along the way — batteries from a Chinese supplier caused a fire the first time he hooked them up, and he had to recut the chassis and push back the pedals after unexpectedly growing three inches, but the biggest roadblock was obtaining vehicle registration.
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration said the car didn’t meet safety regulations, Mr. Bedewi said. His father, Nabih Bedewi, turned to the office of the Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley, to no avail. “It was an uphill battle,” said Nabih Bedewi, an electrical engineer. The Bedewis then tried the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, which issued a three-wheeled motorcycle permit within a week.
On March 12, 2012, Rami Bedewi set off at 5:30 a.m. from Jersey City.
“It was really windy that day,” Rami Bedewi said. “I remember the car was swerving, and I had to make sure I kept control.”
He drove 30 to 45 m.p.h on back roads with his mother leading and father trailing in their vehicles. Nabih Bedewi talked in his son’s earpiece during the 12-hour journey to keep him focused, especially when they hit traffic leaving Jersey City.
“I think he was sort of getting a little frustrated that the first 15 miles took an hour and a half to two hours, so he thought he was never going to make it,” Mr. Bedewi said of his son.
Rami Bedewi made four stops (five if you count the police officer who pulled him over in Delaware to check for registration) before rolling into his high school’s parking lot in North Bethesda, Md.
The trip consumed one and a quarter gallons of gas, but he could have made it with less than a gallon if he had fully depleted his battery the last 50 miles, he said. Instead, he finished the trip on a fully charged battery, using an extra quarter gallon of fuel.
But he said he was not disappointed that he failed to meet his target.
“It was a fantastic experience,” he said, grinning as curious auto show attendees circled the car.
Now 18, Rami Bedewi is studying mechanical engineering at John Hopkins University. He said he was considering a new challenge, but declined to divulge details.
“I’m thinking of other projects to pursue,” he said, adding that he is still “figuring out time and resources.”