A young engineer turns on a new path

Bridgen van Dorsten ’15 has almost reached the finish line.

For the past few months, she’s been tweaking, adjusting and manipulating her 1998 Porsche Boxster by replacing the engine with an electric motor. Her goal is to give it the same performance quality as the Tesla 2008 Roadster, a luxury electric vehicle.

In electric cars, the gasoline engine is replaced by an electric motor which gets its power from batteries, which is monitored by a BMS controller.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, there were nearly 11 million alternative fuel vehicles in the United States in 2011. Van Dorsten predicts that number to be rising quickly due to the many benefits electric engines provide.

The process of converting a traditional gas car into an electric one, however, is extremely complicated. In fact, van Dorsten calculated that she has spent 90 hours working on her project thus far.

“Basically, you have to remove everything that’s involved with the internal combustion engine, then you have to install an electric motor with batteries that have the voltage to power the car,” van Dorsten said.

Van Dorsten explained with great passion that electric cars are the way of the future, and that more people should drive them. She even wrote her research paper stating that they’re better for the environment, more cost efficient, and easier to use.

“Once the project is completed, I’ll drive it around on special occasions,” Van Dorsten said. “But the main purpose of me doing this is for the educational value.”

Engineering practically runs in van Dorsten’s blood. Her great-grandfather, grandfather and father all have electrical engineering degrees and have worked with companies such as Texas Instruments, Sikorsky, Bloomberg and many more.

“Considering my family is so involved with engineering, it was something I always knew I wanted to do,” van Dorsten said. “I’ve been begging my dad to restore a car with me for the past seven years, and here I am.”

Even though van Dorsten usually works on the vehicle alone, her father is always there to support her.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Bridget,” David van Dorsten said.

However, the road to success didn’t always come easily.

“On several occasions, I had to innovate and create tools when I couldn’t afford or find the parts I needed,” van Dorsten said. “I really needed a chain vice, but I improvised by taking advantage of gravity and tortion by using a suspension arm.”

Yet, she continues to muddle through in order to complete her project.

“She has the wisdom to dust herself off in the event of any failure and to take on the challenge of getting it right the second time around,” Humphrey Wong, van Dorsten’s Independent Study teacher, said.

Van Dorsten also hopes to pursue engineering in college, and her love for both the worlds of engineering and motor vehicles is what drives her abundant success.

“[The project] is something that I find extremely fascinating– I could spend hours working on it, and it’s kind of like a getaway for me as well,” van Dorsten said with a beaming smile on her face.