Wayne State receives $5 million grant for electric vehicle engineering program

As part of President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan to revitalize the automotive industry, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Wayne State University a $5 million federal grant to provide an electric vehicle engineering education and workforce training program.

A critical component of the plan is to create a pipeline of next-generation technicians and engineers who are needed by an industry transforming to electric-drive vehicles.

No degree programs in electric-drive vehicles exist in the United States. "The auto manufacturers are training their electric-drive vehicle engineers and technicians mainly in-house," said Simon Ng, professor, Department of Chemical and Materials Science Engineering. "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.

"I am ecstatic and appreciate the Obama administration's recognition that education is a vital part of this plan. Specially-skilled engineers are necessary to advance and support electric drive vehicles," said Ng.

Ng, who directs the university's Alternative Energy Technology degree program, is leading a team of Wayne State engineering and Macomb Community College faculty, along with NextEnergy of Michigan, 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 announcing the grant Wednesday at NextEnergy, a nonprofit "alternative energy accelerator" at TechTown, the university's research and technology park, Vice President Joe Biden called the Recovery Act awards the "single largest investment" ever in battery technology and manufacturing.  According to the plan, Michigan will receive more Recovery Act funds than any other state, creating an estimated 19,000 high-paying jobs. 

The proposed Wayne State degree programs include a master's in Electric-Drive Vehicle Engineering; a bachelor's in Electric Transportation Technology; an associate's in Automotive Technology and Electronic Engineering Technology; and a graduate certificate program in Electric-Drive Vehicle Engineering.

There are some 1,000 prospective graduate students and 2,000 prospective undergraduates "locally" eligible for the new degree program, according to Ng.  "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."

Together with Macomb Community College, which has a hybrid electric vehicle maintenance training program, students enrolled in the new program can begin to take courses toward these degree programs beginning in January.

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