Tennessee’s future workforce is being shaped by electric vehicle (EV) technologies. Volkswagen’s ID.4 and local expansions from companies like NOVONIX are bringing new manufacturing jobs to Chattanooga, making EVs a key component of the city’s sustainable future.

For the past five years, green|spaces has held a unique competition for Hamilton County Schools, offering students the chance to race against each other and gain familiarity with essential STEM tools for tomorrow’s job market.

Hundreds of local students, ranging from elementary to high school, designed and built GreenPower USA EVs to compete in this year’s Chattanooga Green Prix. For the first time in race history, Volkswagen of Chattanooga hosted the two-day event – March 24 to 25 – where teams from 30 Hamilton County Schools gathered to compete for banners and bragging rights.

Highlights from Chattanooga Green Prix opening day. Photographer: Abdiel Vallejo-Lopez

“The Green Prix introduces students to the concepts of sustainability, renewable energies, and environmental consciousness – three principles which echo our commitments at Volkswagen. We are honored to play a part in helping to develop the next generation of creative innovators,” Amanda Plecas, Volkswagen Chattanooga spokesperson said.

The opening day welcomed 17 teams of local elementary schools including Hardy, Lookout Valley, East Lake and Westview, coming together to compete in the drag race and obstacle course. Lookout Valley Elementary teams took first and second place, coached by teachers Amanda Carter and Dara Smiley-Lacey, along with Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham, who launched the program at Lookout Valley five years ago.

On the second day of the competition, both middle school and high school students competed using larger vehicles. The GreenPower EVs used in the competition require a push start to gain momentum and conserve energy. This adds elements of problem-solving and critical thinking to the race as teams strategize on who will push and who will drive.

Sale Creek Middle and High School received both first and second place, with the Bill Perry Perseverance Award going to Chattanooga STEM School.

Highlights from Chattanooga Green Prix second day. Photographer: Yasmin Rubayo

Chattanooga Green Prix offers free participation to public schools and provides teachers with a stipend for their dedication while ensuring a safe and enjoyable race day. At the beginning of the semester, participating schools are given a box of parts and instructions to support their students in designing, building, presenting, and racing their electric race cars.

Students are assigned various roles in their EV Clubs including project manager, parts coordinator, marketing director, and driver, offering insight into different career paths available.

Sale Creek Middle takes the podium at Chattanooga Green Prix. Photographer Yasmin Rubayo.

“The stories that have emerged from this program are nothing short of astounding. Elementary school girls inspired to be mechanical engineers, middle school boys that have never turned a wrench becoming fascinated with mechanics, and high school students who were struggling in traditional academic environments finding their passion for learning through a hands-on experience,” Michael Walton, Executive Director, green|spaces says.

Visit the green|spaces website for a full list of Chattanooga Green Prix winners, here.

Watch a Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership video featuring Walton, below.