Ford Teams Up with Detroit University to Retrain Engineers for Electric Cars

ford-ev-engineer-photo-1Alas, Detroit. With the collapse of the American automotive industry, there’s just too much bad news associated with the Motor City these days.

Some good news, then: the Ford Motor Company, the only Big Three automaker to avoid bankruptcy, recently announced a partnership with the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) School of Engineering to retrain traditional automotive engineers in the development of electric cars.

UDM’s new “Advanced Electric Vehicle Program,” a graduate-level curriculum focused on electric and hybrid vehicle engineering, will have 125 Ford engineers as its first group of students.

“The era of electric vehicles is here and it’s critical that we meet this technology challenge by retraining our engineers with a broad range of new skills and competencies,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development, in an announcement about the program.

Yes, These Are “Green Jobs”…

While it is unclear how quickly it will happen, there is an emerging consensus that electric powered vehicles will eventually replace gasoline powered vehicles. The question is, who will design and build these cars?

The world’s leading hybrid vehicle, the Prius, was designed in Japan. In the States, on the other hand, automakers have been playing catch-up in EV and hybrid technology: the first all-electric production car from the Big Three is the Chevy Volt, which rolls out next fall.

Ford meanwhile plans to unveil four electric or hybrid vehicles in the next three years: the Transit Connect electric van in 2010, the Ford Focus all electric in 2011, and two additional  hybrids by 2012.

With every major car company planning some sort of EV or plug-in hybrid vehicle, plus start-ups such as Think, Tesla and others developing the vehicles, the demand for qualified EV engineers is sure to get white hot.

…But They Aren’t For Everyone.

If you’re unemployed and looking to break into the green sphere, beware: this work is for the technically-minded only. The UDM curriculum includes such classes as:

  • Introduction to Advanced Electric Vehicles
  • Controls Modeling and Design for Electric Vehicles
  • Energy Storage Systems
  • Power Electronics for Electric Vehicles
  • Electric Drives/Electromechanical Energy Conversion
  • Innovation and System Architecture for Electric Vehicles
  • System Engineering for Electric Vehicles

The program has its first classes in January.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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