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CATA students transform classic automobile into battery powered vehicle

Loud machinery, heavy equipment, and oil underneath your fingernails are all the makings of a great day at the Transportation Systems Academy at Central Academy of Technology and Arts (CATA).  Student working on a car

Students in the academy can’t wait to dive in and learn more about the automotive technology pathway and its future career opportunities. 

This rings true for Roger Pressley's Advanced Studies and Automotive Technology classes at CATA. For the last two years, his students have been working on a 1977 Datsun. 

The classic vehicle came to the classes as just a shell, so they had to start from the very beginning. 

“By the time that our class started working on the car the only thing on it was a few towers, a plate, and structural support,” said Ryan Reavis, a junior at CATA who is in Mr. Pressley's Advanced Studies class.  

As a part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, the advanced studies class is a project-based elective class offered to students. 

Before classes were sent home due to Covid, they were able to add panels including the fenders and the doors of the vehicle. 

Last spring, students decided they wanted to make the Datsun an electric vehicle because of the rise in electric vehicles on the road. 

“Technicians need to be able to learn how to work with those vehicles because electric cars systems are very different from gasoline-powered cars,” added Ryan.  

The students realize that the Datsun is not a Tesla, but they are excited to work on an electric vehicle and learn how they work. 

The car will take eight 12-volt deep cycle batteries which will help it run, along with a standard car battery. Once it is road-ready, the battery-powered Datsun will be able to travel up to 40 miles. To be recharged, the vehicle will need to be plugged into a power source. Group working on a car.

The vehicle will remain manual. It won't have a clutch pedal, so the driver will not have to utilize that feature when shifting gears, they will just be able to change gears with the gear shift. 

“It’s a lot of fun to watch the students work so hard on this vehicle and watch them get excited about it,” said Mr. Pressley. “I’d rather do this any day, versus teaching a regular class.” 

Mr. Pressley and his class confirm that without road testing the vehicle that it will ride like a gas-powered car. They’ve confirmed this through tests that included wiring all nine batteries in the vehicle. 

By the end of the semester, Mr. Pressley hopes that the vehicle’s high voltage and conversions will be complete. Eventually, making it to where the vehicle can be driven on the road.  

“What I really enjoyed about this class is being able to put something together and call it our own. As well as gaining experience in problem-solving,” said Corey Mayo a junior in the CATA Automotive III class.  

Mr. Pressley plans to have the vehicle featured at the UCPS High School Program Expo next month at the Union County Agricultural Center. 

To learn more about the Transportation Systems Academy at CATA click here



Published Nov. 9, 2021 on UCPS website, copied to CATA on 11.10.2021