Green bug teaches Gulfport students an environmental lesson

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – A bright green bug became the center of attention at Gulfport High School Wednesday morning.

"Awesome," exclaimed one student as she got behind the wheel.

"I like the design," said Gulfport High Senior Chad Girard.  "I didn't think it would actually work and how it was quiet.  It was pretty amazing."

"I thought it was going to be loud, but I was surprised at how quiet it was when he turned it on," said Gulfport High Junior Tyler Simons.

Dubbed "The Lightning Bug," the car helped get Physical Science students revved-up about electricity and magnetism, which are lessons they've been learning about in the classroom.

"This really is the future right here," said teacher Jimmy Barta.  "A lot of us may be having these in our carport one day, and definitely them.  This is something that easily can be done."

Owner Jon McDougal bought the 1975 Volkswagon Super Beetle last year, when gas prices were hovering around $4 to $5 a gallon.

"Plus, I got tired hearing about pollution and carbon dioxide, and things that we're putting into the air," said McDougal.

McDougal and his best friend spent their Sundays converting the beetle into an electric car.   It took them nine months to finish the job.  They used recycled parts and made their own cables, battery bars, and electrical connections.  The motor actually came from on old freight elevator.

Now, McDougal is using the vehicle as a visual teaching tool.

"I think it's good to show kids what two guys can do once they put their minds to it," said McDougal. "We're trying to promote local sustainability and thinking about what individuals can do if possible to have less of an impact on the environment."

And the students are learning how going green can save them a lot of green.

"It saves a lot of gas money for me, a lot of gas money," said Gulfport High Senior John Cooley.

McDougal says he spends an extra $10 a week on his power bill now.  That's lower than the $30 to $75 a week he used to pay for gasoline.

He has shown off his car at the University of South Alabama.  Their next stop is Bayou View Elementary in Gulfport.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.