Alternative Powered Vehicles
The automotive industry as a whole is going through the paces of changing from being solely reliant on petroleum based internal combustion engines to power trains that may be electric, gasoline/electric hybrid, electricity based with batteries or a fuel cell powered by the many various alternative fuels such as natural gas or hydrogen.
The dwindling reserves of oil combined with the recent jumps in oil prices during 2008 have made the emphasis on other automotive power trains and energy sources a subject of concern for consumers and government agencies as well. In addition, growing concerns about energy costs, energy security and exhaust emissions from vehicles have increased interest in alternative transportation fuels.
More than 4,000 electric vehicles (EV’s) are traveling US roads and highways. California has the greatest concentration of EV’s. Current battery technology is the major setback for the electric vehicle. At this time a battery pack can weigh anywhere between 800 and 1800 pounds. The lifetime of the battery runs for only a short range before it has to be re-charged. GM, Toyota, BMW and other manufacturers are working towards advancement of the battery technology.
An interim solution to these deficiencies in the range of the current batteries is the hybrid electric vehicle. This vehicle has an electrically charged battery pack, coupled with a small internal combustion engine. Ultimately, the hybrid electric vehicle design is to be a cost-effective, highly efficient, ultra-low exhaust emission vehicle capable of equaling or exceeding present vehicle performance, safety and customer appeal standards. Examples of current hybrids include the Toyota Prius, Lexus RX450h, and Ford Escape Hybrid.
Another alternative fuel option is the ethanol-fueled vehicle. Ethanol-fueled vehicles date back to the 1880’s when Henry Ford designed a car that ran solely on ethanol. Subsequently, the popular Model T was designed to operate on either ethanol or gasoline. Four generations later, ethanol-blended gasoline accounts for more than 10 percent of total gasoline sales in the US. Ethanol is produced by fermenting plant sugars. It can be made from corn, wheat, brewery waste and many other agricultural products and food wastes. More than 90% of US ethanol production comes from corn. The use of E10 ethanol is covered under warranty by every automaker selling cars in the US. Examples are the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, the Ford Crown Victoria, the Mercedes C230, the Nissan Armada and the Chrysler Sebring.
Still another alternative fuel option is biodiesel. In 1895, Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the diesel engine with the intention of running it on a variety of fuels, including vegetable oil. Today, the diesel engine is still capable of running on biodiesel fuel, which can be produced from a variety of renewable sources, including soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil and animal fats. Most biodiesel produced in the US is made from soybean oil due to this feedstock’s abundance. The Deer Valley School District in Phoenix, Arizona, began using biodiesel in 1999. In a total fleet of 250 vehicles, 140 school buses and 5 maintenance trucks run on biodiesel.
What does CPCC have to offer?
At CPCC we have been a key supplier of technicians to the North Carolina automotive service industry for over a generation. We look forward to being a source for the future technicians that will keep America moving.
Toward that end we have technical agreements with General Motors, Toyota and BMW to provide our students with the latest training available regarding alternative fuels.
One example is our Toyota T-Ten program. This supplies entry level technicians to Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealerships. All graduates of the program will have been exposed to and trained in the basics of hybrid vehicle servicing and will be ready for the cars on the road today. Their skills would have been practiced on the several Toyota vehicles that were provided specifically for this purpose. In addition, CPCC serves as a remote training location for the continuing education of existing Toyota technicians who are already employed in the workforce.
CPCC is proud to be a member of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium and as all of the new technologies emerge or training needs arise will continue to be there as a resource. A recent example has been the training of the area’s first responders in dealing with automobile accidents involving high voltage hybrid vehicles. Toyota alone has over one million hybrid vehicles on the road. The safety of the responders as well as those injured in an accident necessitated this training.
Most of the automotive manufactures are building or will be building vehicles with hybrid or alternative fuel power trains. As another example, CPCC is a contract provider to General Motors to provide the state of art training that current GM dealership technicians are required to obtain
Please check the CPCC website and the links to the Transport Systems Technology Department for more information on the courses offering the building blocks toward understanding these emerging opportunities.