America's high schools have offered specialized automotive training for generations of technicians who then kept family cars and business vehicles humming on the highways. But, the evolution of transportation in the 21st Century is bringing a whole new kind of alternative fuel automobiles into service bays across the nation and a whole new set of challenges to men and women preparing to keep those cars on the road.
The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium is on a mission to properly introduce these new advanced electric drive vehicles to the people who will service them right where automotive education begins – in the nation's high schools.
The NAFTC introduced its first high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum in its own backyard of Morgantown, WV when 15 West Virginia high school teachers from around the state participated in a week-long Advanced Electric Drive Vehicle Education Program training. The training is funded through a U.S. Department of Energy award and is geared to introduce high school CTE automotive students to advanced electric drive vehicles.
"It's extremely important that we begin this education at the high school level," NAFTC Executive Director Al Ebron said. "There are a lot of opportunities for young people if we get them early - there are a lot of paths for them to choose from in the alternative fuel field."
The CTE course is also being taught at the J. Harley Bonds Career Center in Greer, South Carolina. In all during this academic year, ten pilot programs of the curriculum will be introduced in high schools in West Virginia and South Carolina.
The course focuses on four types of electric drive vehicles: battery electric, plug-in electric, hybrid electric, and fuel-cell electric. The NAFTC selected Perfect Sky founder Jack Rosebro to teach the course. Rosebro's Perfect Sky company develops and delivers technical training for hybrid, electric, and other innovative vehicle technologies in North America, Europe, and Asia. After each section in the classroom, the instructors are taken into the NAFTC's onsite automobile lab and conduct various hands-on activities with the equipment and vehicles.
Jeff Hardy, a teacher at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center in New Cumberland, WV, discussed his favorite aspects of the program.
"The instructor getting us out here in the shop and letting us take out the battery pack, dissemble one from a vehicle and taking these motor generators apart, all of the 'hands-on' stuff was very helpful," Hardy explained. "We sound like our kids but that's the part of the program they like, and it is a valuable way of learning."
To further the secondary school educational opportunities, the NAFTC sent staff and equipment, including its in-house Toyota Prius and its hybrid electric vehicle training educator, known as HEVTE to South Carolina for another week of training. HEVTE is a functioning Prius hybrid vehicle featuring a cutaway that shows the intricacies of the vehicle and how it works.
"The thing that our instructor made interesting is he never told us any answers," said the West Virginia Department of Education's Coordinator of Engineering and Technical Education Paul Lovett. "So, it led to the discovery - everything was discovery and everything was new to us."
The CTE program received support from the West Virginia and South Carolina Departments of Education.
Gene Coulson, the executive director of the Office of Career and Technical Innovation for West Virginia's Department of Education, allowed state teachers to participate in the program and introduced the pilot program for the upcoming school year.
In South Carolina, the NAFTC worked with Benjamin T. Martin, an education associate for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program in the South Carolina Department of Education.
After this year's pilot efforts, the NAFTC will make adjustments to the curriculum based upon its findings and participant recommendations, and then the high school program will become available nationwide.