Degrees in Hybrid Automotive Engineering Abound

Sep 9, 2011

by Tom Ricci ASME.org

As the major automotive manufacturers race to develop the next generation of hybrid vehicles and the U.S government continues to pour in research dollars to hasten their development, hybrid automotive engineers are becoming a hot commodity.

Many mainstream colleges and universities as well as technical institutes now are tweaking their engineering programs to include undergraduate and graduate degrees in hybrid automotive engineering. Students can even study hybrid automotive engineering abroad at leading educational institutions such as HAN University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, the University of Leeds in the U.K., and the Westsachsische Hochschule Zwickau University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

The new era of hybrid vehicles is creating the need for multidiscipline skillsets that go well beyond traditional automotive training. For example, the Michigan Technological University launched its interdisciplinary professional Master of Engineering program with graduate and undergraduate certification in propulsion technologies for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The curriculum development is supported by a three-year, $3-million grant from the Department of Energy under the Transportation Electrification Program. The curriculum is being developed in partnership with General Motors and engineering organizations.

Beyond propulsion technologies, the curriculum will offer many new and exciting challenges to students in areas such as fuel cells and hydrogen, alternative fuels, battery packs, DC converters, energy storage systems, battery management systems, battery charging systems, and greenhouse gas assessment.

Recognizing the need to educate the next generation of engineers who would be capable of developing and commercializing advanced automotive technologies, in early 2000, the Department of Energy established Graduate Automotive Technology Education (GATE) Centers of Excellence to provide a new generation of engineers and scientists with knowledge and skills in advanced automotive technologies.

Today, eight universities have received DOE GATE awards and are focusing their research on hybrid propulsion systems, fuel cells, advanced computation and simulation, energy storage systems, biofuels, and lightweight materials. The GATE centers are:

  • The University of Alabama at Birmingham's GATE Center of Excellence focusing on lightweight materials, advanced computation and simulation, and biomechanics.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's GATE Center for Advanced Automotive Bio-Fuel Combustion Engines.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's GATE Center for Automotive Fuel Cell Systems.
  • The Ohio State University's GATE Center for Modeling, Control, and System Integration of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems.
  • The University of California-Davis's Fuel Cell Hydrogen Hybrid Vehicle (FCH2V) GATE Centers.
  • Pennsylvania State University's GATE Center for High Power Energy Storage Systems and complementary technologies.
  • The University of Tennessee's GATE Center for Hybrid Systems focusing on development of optimal strategies for powertrain control and systems integration.
  • The University of Michigan-Dearborn's GATE Center for Lightweight Automotive Materials and Processing.

While much of the activity and public funding in this area is focused on advanced research, there are other colleges, including Hocking College in Nelsonville, OH, which are training students to troubleshoot, repair, maintain, and test multiple types of advanced and hybrid automobiles, trucks and buses.

Additionally, the curriculum will address fuel cell technologies and testing of advanced fuels that may propel the automobiles of the future, such as biodiesel, ethanol, and hydrogen.

Tom Ricci is the owner of Ricci Communications.

The new era of hybrid vehicles is creating the need for multidiscipline skillsets that go well beyond traditional automotive training.