Deployment of Electric Vehicles Ignites New Auto Tech and Safety Programs
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Aug. 18, 2011) – From the front view, the Newton, built in North Kansas City by Smith Electric Vehicles, looks like any other urban delivery truck -- the type that transports packages across town, or carries a full load of soft drinks and even snack items such as potato chips to the local supermarket. But take a closer look under the cab and along the chassis and you’ll discover what makes this vehicle different. You’ll see why it not only runs quieter than most trucks its size and releases zero emissions, but can achieve speeds up to 50 miles per hour at a range in excess of 100 miles – all without a drop of gas.
Such vehicles have become part of the learning process for University of Central Missouri students enrolled in the Automotive Technology Management Program. The program is collaborating with the Newton’s builder and other automotive manufacturers to provide training for students who want to be prepared for an industry that’s developing more electric drive, hybrid, and alternative fuel vehicles. A federal grant is also helping the university to create educational opportunities to prepare skilled technicians and managers needed to manufacture and maintain these new energy-saving cars and trucks.
“We’ve developed a new certificate program for these vehicles, which is incorporated into the curriculum for the Bachelor of Science in Automotive Technology Management degree,” said Scott Wilson, program coordinator. “The students who complete the B.S. degree will also complete the certificate.”
The certificate in Advanced Vehicle Systems requires 21 credit hours, and requires students to successfully complete courses in Applied Electricity; Automotive Electrical Systems; Advanced Powerplant Systems; Advanced Vehicle Systems; along with courses dealing with automotive braking, steering and suspension systems.
Development of this certificate opportunity grew out of a federal program that allowed the university to receive a share of a $5 million United States Department of Energy grant that was distributed in fall 2009 to five Missouri education partners. A total of $650,000 was received for UCM’s Automotive Technology Management Program and the Missouri Safety Center on campus. Other Missouri partners include Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Linn State Technical College in Linn, and the Missouri Science Center in St. Louis. They jointly applied for federal funds that were made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate the manufacture and deployment of electric vehicles, batteries and components across the U.S. Under the grant agreement, Missouri University of Science and Technology is focusing on development of courses for training in the area of advanced electric drive vehicles, the Missouri Science Center is addressing public outreach, and UCM and Linn State are developing courses for operators, technicians and product support managers.
In addition to the certificate program, UCM has created the new course on Advanced Vehicle Systems and made modifications to existing courses to include materials on greener vehicles. It also developed a new dynamometer lab that enables students to simultaneously collect data points on study vehicles, including the Smith Electric delivery truck which has a gross vehicle weight up to 26,455 pounds.
“We can look at horsepower, torque values, endurance, and we can also collect data on emissions, as well as fuel consumption,” Wilson said.
Using a Newton, Wilson recently coordinated a “dyno” demonstration for UCM President Chuck Ambrose with other automotive technology faculty members and former colleague, Terry Nicoletti, who now serves as national parts and service director for Smith Electric Vehicles. Nicoletti, who was part of the initial grant application project, has worked with the UCM automotive program to provide vehicles for lab purposes. He’s also been a strong supporter of hiring UCM graduates to work for the company. At least 10 graduates of the Automotive Technology Management Program have been hired by Smith Electric since the company was established in 2009.
The other university partner in the three-year federal grant, the Missouri Safety Center, is under the direction of Terry Butler. He said the center’s role in this partnership is to develop non-academic safety awareness training short courses designed to educate individuals on safety concerns related to advanced electric drive vehicles (AEV), including hands-on driver safety training. These courses will include educational outreach to AEV fleet purchasers, AEV technicians and maintenance personnel, AEV drivers (year one); law enforcement and emergency management services personnel (year two) and the general public (year three).
“We are conducting a pilot course for fleet purchasers this summer and the courses for public safety and the general public are still in the development stage,” Butler said.
This is not the first time the Missouri Safety Center has received DOE funding. In the 1980s, it was provided a grant to conduct driver energy conservation awareness training.
As gas prices continue to climb, more and more individuals and companies will be turning to environmentally friendly vehicles. Efforts by UCM will help ensure both the drivers and the manufacturers are well prepared for this new era in transportation.
For more information about the Automotive Technology Management Program, contact Wilson at 660-543-4065. To learn more about programs offered by the Missouri Safety Center, contact Butler at 660-543-4213.