It's electric! M State receives grant to train students as hybrid, electric vehicle technicians

October 7, 2022

Minnesota State Community and Technical College is amping up hybrid and electric vehicle education, and a celebratory Open House has been planned at the college’s state-of-the-art Transportation Center in Moorhead.

The market for hybrid and electric vehicles has grown exponentially in recent years, and as a result, there’s a rapidly growing demand for automotive technicians trained to maintain and repair these vehicles.

Now, thanks in large part to a $349,652 National Science Foundation grant award, M State is rolling out plans for a forward-thinking new training program to help meet that demand.

“The energy surrounding the hybrid and electric vehicle market is surging; it’s a transformative era for the automotive industry, and we’re excited to be leading efforts to prepare students for this transition,” said M State President Carrie Brimhall. “It’s important that we don’t sit back and wait for the change, but rather take the wheel to lead the next generation of automotive service technicians to long and successful careers in the field. We hope you can join us to celebrate M State’s leadership role in the future of automotive technology education.”

M State Chevy Bolt
This 2022 Chevy Bolt Electric Utility Vehicle was added to M State’s growing inventory of hybrid and electric vehicles used for educational and training purposes in June, thanks to funds from a Perkins grant.

The Open House, happening Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m., is open to anyone with an interest in the automotive industry. Community members, media professionals, auto industry stakeholders, and college faculty, staff and students are all invited.

An array of electric vehicles (EVs) will be on display during the event, and there will be an announcement about M State’s upcoming Level 3 EV charging station, which will be one of only four such stations in the Fargo-Moorhead area and will be available to the public at no cost. M State leaders will speak, and a reception with snacks and beverages will follow.

M State is developing the new hybrid and EV technician training program under the leadership of Automotive Faculty Members Shannon Mohn and Allan Lineburg, with input from other college faculty, auto industry partners, manufacturers and stakeholders throughout the region. Mohn was a key figure behind the National Science Foundation grant award and has previous experience in the execution of grant duties and curriculum development as well as close connections with the regional automotive industry.

The newly developed curriculum will consist of two complementary 3-credit “stackable certificates” that automotive technology students may complete along with their regular coursework. The certificates will demonstrate a student’s abilities in the maintenance and repair of hybrid vehicles, EVs, or both.

The curriculum is expected to be implemented at M State by 2024, and after that it will be shared with other colleges across the country for potential adoption and use.

“This project will have the ability to impact the automotive industry and college automotive technology programs on a local, regional and national level,” said Mohn. “The curriculum and resulting e-textbook and lab materials we develop will be shared with multiple National Science Foundation centers around the country, allowing any automotive technology program to use them.”

Mohn will serve as an ongoing resource for those centers, answering questions and offering advice and information to educators, organizations and schools as they implement their own similar programs.

“The goal is to address the severe lack of technicians who are trained to work on electric-powered vehicles,” said Mohn. “Currently, only 3% of technicians are trained to work on these vehicles, yet the market is growing rapidly – fewer than 1,000 such vehicles were sold in all of 2009; today, 100,000 are sold every month, in the U.S. alone.”

That number will only continue to rise as attitudes about clean energy and electric vehicles continue to change. A 2021 survey by Yale University showed that 67% of Americans are in support of transitioning the national economy from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050, and 78% are in favor of tax rebates for electric vehicles.

Major motor companies, including Ford, General Motors and others, are reporting year-over-year jumps of well over 100% in new electric car sales, and have made pledges to spend billions on the development of new electric vehicles. Forbes estimates that by 2025, electric vehicle sales will make up more than 20% of the total market.

At M State, the automotive department has already procured two fully functional hybrid vehicles, as well as components and batteries, for educational lab use from several manufacturers and salvage and recycling companies. Local industry has also committed to loaning EVs to the program for short-term use so students and instructors will have access to the most current technology.

As a member of the Minnesota State system, M State serves more than 6,500 students in credit courses each year in more than 70 career and liberal arts programs online and at its campuses in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and Wadena. By partnering with communities, the college also provides workforce development services and other responsive training programs.