The number of hybrid cars in the U.S. will triple by 2015, according to J.D. Power and Associates. This change in demand and technology requires a new skill set from today’s mechanics. The premise is that drivers around the world will continue trading gas guzzling, big-body cars for lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles that are easier on the pockets and the environment.
To help meet the need for mechanics who understand hybrid vehicles, Clean Air Cab has started an internship program with East Valley Institute of Technology to help prepare students for the greener highways of the future.
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“I wanted to refresh the minds that are coming up to say hey, there’s always going to be something new in this industry,” said Steve Lopez, owner and CEO of Clean Air Cab Co.
Lopez adopted that “something new” by making his entire fleet of vehicles for Clean Air Cab the Toyota Prius hybrid, ranked by the EPA as the 2012 most fuel-efficient compact car.
EVIT student Thomas Reeves was happy to take advantage of the opportunity to work with these hybrid vehicles.
“I’ve always wanted to learn more about Toyota, so when this came along I said let’s dive in, and I’ve liked it so far,” Reeves said. “I think it’s really cool when people decide to help the environment.”
Hybrid certified mechanic Rocky Schiermeyer works with the EVIT intern at Clean Air Cab four days a week.
“In five or 10 years, it’s not going to be how it used to be. It’s going to be real specialized training to work on those cars,” Schiermeyer said.
Job growth for auto mechanics is expected to occur at a rate of 17 percent during the 2010-2020 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the growth rate is on pace, job prospects will need the right skills to be able to work on the cars that are on road.
The “one million electric vehicles by 2015” initiative is shaping the future of the automotive industry.
The United States, along with several other nations, are providing incentives to both citizens and fleet owners who purchase electric cars. Efforts made by the U.S. government also include regulation changes, vehicle fleet conversions, partnerships with major employers /retailers, and workforce training.
The national budget request seeks to expand this initiative so that up to 30 communities could receive grants of up to $10 million to help catalyze electric vehicle deployment, according to the U.S. Department of Energy status report.
The internship between EVIT and Clean Air Cab, however, is not funded by these government grants. It is privately funded by the cab company, which was recently a finalist for one of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce’s “business of the year” awards.
The government incentives, however, have many people jumping on board with greener technologies.
The Valley’s Discount Cab, since 2008, has converted 81 percent of its fleet to Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles. Police units, universities, and transportation authorities have also changed to eco-friendly cars.
This makes being able to service these vehicles that much more essential for mechanics.
While there is a difference in a HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) and a EV (electric vehicle that does not use gasoline at all), they share the use of electric motors and lithium batteries. Familiarity with these electrical system helps expand a mechanic’s versatility in the job market.
Clean Air Cab is working with one student intern at this time but is open to expansion in the future, Lopez said.