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Training Professionals To Handle Electric and Plug-In Hybrid Cars

Training professionals to work on alternative energy cars, such as pure electric cars, EV and plug-in hybrids, PHEV requires a lot of education and bursting outdated myths.


Firefighters have been trained for centuries to handle fires and explosions. When gasoline cars appeared they often caught on fire and firemen were trained to handle burning gasoline. If roughly 150,000 gasoline cars catch on fire every year in the US, electric cars and their plug-in hybrid cousins are not immune from eventual problems. Fireman and mechanics must learn to work with high voltage and other related hazards.

What About Gasoline Car Mechanics? One of the least talked about topic in the specialized automotive press is what will happen to the mom and pop mechanic shops when more and more electric cars and plug-in hybrids pop up. I trust my Alfa Romeo specialist in Culver City to handle any of the maintenance that needs to be done on my collection cars. But would I bring a plug-in hybrid Fisker Karma, or an electric Mitsubishi i MiEV? Short of the obvious brake, tire and suspension work, not really.

So far electric vehicle mechanic training has sprouted here and there but is relegated to localized training. It’s still difficult to find to find a coherent alternative energy mechanics program at a college or university curriculum.

Fireman, Emergency Crew And The Police Force. The other less talked about essential part of our society is our law enforcement and firemen. According to Randy Armbruster, chief of the Ohio Waverly Fire Department: "New technology makes it more difficult for us to protect the public. That adds to the stress level. That adds to the hazard level. And it may complicate the extrication to get the victims out."

Fighting Electric Car Myths. One of the biggest challenges when educating an emergency crew is fighting myths. For instance, the idea that different technologies in a car crash could cause firefighters to be shocked if a vehicle is sitting in puddles of gasoline or submerged has to be dispelled. We need more accurate information that will save lives instead of creating confusion.

The National Fire and Protection Association, NFPA is running classes to educate firefighter on better handling car crashes. It explains to students how the electrical system of electric vehicles is isolated from the chassis and goes through national safety crash tests before being able to drive on our roads. Students see how the systems actually work and the safety features placed by the manufacturers helps. Asked about the biggest problem electric cars and such pose to firefighters? The answer is their quietness. While it is easy to argue that a road or parking lot is a dangerous place with rolling vehicles, firefighters often have heavy gears and might not hear the whiz of an electric car. In this respect, electric car and plug-in drivers must also do their part and announce themselves, as well as leave a safety distance with pedestrians.

Educating rescue teams, firefighters and mechanics to handle electric cars, and plug-in hybrids needs to happen if these alternative energy cars are to live in harmony.


Craig Van Batenburg (not verified)    July 11, 2012 - 9:20PM

Thanks for bringing up the subject of independant techs and schools. It is true it is hard to find but it does exist. Just google "Hybrid Car Training". I ran an independant shop for 25 years doing Honda and Toyota. We took on HEV in 2000 when we bought an Insight. It can be done and done well, but you need to really commit to it.

Nicolas Zart    July 12, 2012 - 11:56AM

In reply to by Craig Van Batenburg (not verified)

I agree Craig and that is a market waiting to explode. Talk about economic recovery, especially in the sagging automobile segment. I went to an event, not too long ago where the theme was Green Collar Jobs. They showed on an average, these jobs brought in 25% more salary than the equivalent non-green ones.

As far as training, it would be nice to see more sepcialized schools embrace electrics and hybrids. I think it will in due time but it's taken longer than I anticipated. Surely we're not short of entrepreneurs, are we?

Thanks, Nicolas