Grant helps UCCS start electric car technology classes

October 18, 2011 1:15 PM

The University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado-Boulder plan to charge up their courses on electric cars, thanks to a $954,000 grant from the United States Department of Energy the schools jointly won earlier this month.

Using the grant, UCCS and CU-Boulder are developing new graduate-level classes on electric vehicle battery and drivetrain systems that will begin in fall 2012. The classes will develop into certificate, masters and Phd. programs. UCCS engineering professor Greg Plett will lead a team focused on battery controls, while CU-Boulder’s program focuses on drivetrain systems.

“This is where my passion is. (I’m) very, very interested in the research we’re doing in other projects in battery controls and excited to make that more available to students who can do research and apply it to real problems,” Plett said.

The courses will be Internet-based and Plett expects that the program will draw 30-40 students annually from across the country.

“The reason we’re offering a certificate program is there are a lot of very highly trained engineers in the older vehicle technologies who want to get up to speed on the new technologies,” Plett said.

The grant is through the DOE’s Graduate Automotive Technology Education Center of Excellence in Innovative Drivetrains in Electric Automotive Technology Education. Plett expects the program will become self-sustaining after the grant runs out.

Plett said he and his colleagues are working closely with an industry advisory panel made up of Colorado companies to ensure that the program develops technologies with real-world applications.

“We have quite a surprisingly rich blend in this state” of electric vehicle technology companies, he said.

With vehicles such as the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf bringing electric drivetrains to the mainstream, Plett said interest in electric vehicles is surging. However, he added, electric cars aren’t simply about fuel economy.

“(Electric cars) have more torque at lower RPM’s,” Plett said. “It’s a lot more fun to drive an electric drivetrain vehicle.”

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