by David Reich
COE Public Affairs Officer
DETROIT Aug. 5, 2009 Wayne State University will provide the electric vehicle engineering education component to President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan to turn the American automotive industry around, investing $966 million in battery and electric vehicle development and manufacturing in the state of Michigan.
“I am ecstatic and appreciate the Obama Administration in recognizing education as a vital part of his plan calling for specially skilled engineers needed to advance and support electric drive vehicles (EDV),” said Simon Ng, professor, Department of Chemical and Materials Science Engineering.
Ng, like most, got word only hours before President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were to make simultaneous public announcements Aug. 5 that might involve Ng’s multi-million dollar U. S. Department of Energy grant proposal.
Ng, who is also director of Wayne State’s Alternative Energy Technology degree program, is leading a team of Wayne State engineering and Macomb Community College faculty, along with NextEnergy of Michigan, looking to provide a comprehensive set of advanced educational degree programs in electric drive vehicles, electric transportation technology, and electric vehicle maintenance.
“Our proposed program will be a key component supporting the President’s goal to put one million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the road by 2015,” Ng said.
In making the announcement at NextEnergy in Techtown just north of the Wayne State campus, Vice President Biden said that the Recovery Act awards -- the “single largest investment” ever in battery technology and manufacturing -- is expected to create 19,000 high-paying decent jobs in the state. According to the plan, Michigan will receive the largest of the total Recovery Act awards than any other state.
The Obama Administration will invest a total of $2.4 billion in grants to accelerate manufacturing and deployment of the next generation of batteries and electric vehicles. Five organizations in Michigan, including GM, Ford and Chrysler, battery manufacturers, and three universities, will receive $966 million of the total $1.5 billion in battery-related grants. General Motor’s $105.9 million grant is for the production of high-volume battery packs for the Chevy Volt, the much anticipated plug-in extended range hybrid electric vehicle.
But a critical piece of the plan is creating a pipeline of next generation technicians and engineers needed by an industry transforming to electric drive vehicles.
Currently, no degree programs in electric drive vehicles exist in the United States. “The auto manufacturers are training their EDV engineers and technicians mainly in-house,” said Ng. “These components and systems are very much in a state of rapid scientific and technological development that will demand highly trained engineers and technologies with the highest level of technology education.”
The official DOE approval of the Wayne State grant is for $5 million.
The proposed Wayne State degree programs include a master’s degree in Electric Drive Vehicle Engineering, a bachelor’s degree in Electric Transportation Technology, an associate’s degree in Automotive Technology and Electronic Engineering Technology, an undergraduate concentration, and a graduate certificate program in Electric Drive Vehicle Engineering.
Ng envisions at some point approximately 500 students enrolled in Wayne State’s new degree programs training to be design engineers. But it all depends on how fast industry can ramp up manufacturing of electric drive vehicles. “How many engineers does industry need? That’s a difficult question. Right now, very few. Probably there’ll be a demand in the thousands once industry starts producing these cars.”
There are some 1,000 prospective graduate students and 2,000 prospective undergraduates “locally” eligible for the new degree program, Ng said. The distance-learning and web-based curriculum aspects of the proposal give the educators the potential to reach thousands of more students in the state and across the country, he added.
Wayne State was already in good position to build the new degree programs because of its long historical relationships with the auto industry. Wayne State’s College of Engineering created the nation’s first comprehensive master’s program in alternative energy technology in 2006. Its Division of Engineering Technology is also launching a new program in advanced battery systems for hybrid electric vehicles this fall.
In addition, as a Partner for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE), the college’s labs are equipped to provide computer simulation modules, design tools and virtual experiments to cover a wide range of electric car design and simulation from product lifecycle analysis to design team communications.
Together with Macomb Community College with its hybrid electric vehicle maintenance training program, students enrolled in the new program can begin to take courses toward these degree programs beginning in January even if the review and approval process by Wayne State University is not complete, Ng said.
The following team members have signed on to the proposed degree programs as educators and trainers:
For Wayne State University: Dennis Corrigan, Kyoung-Yun Kim, Jerry Ku, Ming-Chia Lai, Gene Liao, Feng Lin, John Q. Liu, Steven Salley, Caisheng Wang, Le Yi Wang, Ece Yaprak and Chi Ping Yeh.
For Macomb Community College: Lisa Richter, Matthew Rossow, William Stark, and John Wieczerza.
For NextEnergy (providing community outreach workshop component): Jim Saber.