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“The Last Gas Day”

Millersville University students are shifting sustainability into drive for their newest project!

Millersville University students are shifting sustainability into drive for their newest project.

The group of students, led by Albert Unrath Jr., instructional designer at Millersville, are leading an innovative project to convert a 1970 Volkswagen (VW) bus originally designed to run on gas to become completely powered by electricity.

The project originated when the University began searching for a way to accommodate parents and students unable to walk the full length of a campus tour. The solution had to be something that could cross public roads and be environmentally friendly.  Unrath, who is self-proclaimed “innovator, car guy and environmentalist,” proposed an idea of having MU students convert an old VW bus from gas power to electric power.

Unrath designed the full project, got it approved, located and transported the bus, donated his own tools and found students to get involved from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). Unrath is working on this entire project on his own by dedicating time to the project outside of his MU work hours.

“I have developed this project because in every vain of my life I believe in hands-on real life learning and want to encourage students to think beyond just taking classes at Millersville and getting a piece of paper at graduation,” Unrath said. “The bus will be ‘homegrown’ and will demonstrate what our students can do with a modest budget and some big ideas.”

On Friday, Oct. 9, the bus spent its final hours as a gas-powered vehicle during “The Last Gas Day.”  The bus was on display in front of the Student Memorial Center where students and faculty could give the project a real-life “like” by applying their own thumb print to the side of the bus. 

The next step is the removal of the engine. Students will strip the VW bus of all parts and build a steel frame that will mount the bus suspension. Then, after repairing rust and assembling the electrical vehicle parts, they will complete the body and merge the electric components.

While the conversion process allows students to experience hands on work, it also advances the sustainability goals of the MU campus.

“It fits with the University’s strategic plan and what the president [Dr. John Anderson] hopes to accomplish with regards to sustainability and having a green campus,” said Unrath. “The bus will demonstrate that sustainability is within reach of everyone and doesn’t always require tons of capital. It’s a homegrown innovation suited for the real world.”

Many of the students currently working on the project have backgrounds in applied engineering, but the group welcomes students with diverse backgrounds and interests to become involved using their various talents. Conversion of the vehicle is expected to be completed by the spring semester and will be presented at the Made in Millersville showcase in April 2016.

“I have a passion for teaching students how to stretch their minds and use their hands,” Unrath said. “My hopes are that MU starts with the VW bus project and expands it to be the ‘MU Inventors’ Workshop’ as a place where any student, faculty or staff member can enrich learning through invention, design, development and application.”

Keep up with the progress of the project at For more information or to become involved in the project, contact Albert Unrath at

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