SF Automotive Students “Tour” Chevy Volt Plug-in Hybrid

With gas at nearly $4 a gallon and the discovery of new oil fields increasingly few and far between, the future of transportation lies in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Mario Schwarz, coordinator of Santa Fe College’s Automotive Technology program, is keeping pace with the advances in automotive technology by introducing his students to the latest in electric vehicle design.

Palm Chevrolet of Gainesville has loaned the SF Automotive program a Chevrolet Volt for a day of under-the-hood show & tell. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 17 in Building H , room 10 at the Northwest campus, Schwarz will give his students a “tour” of the Volt’s hybrid technology.

Volt’s technology

Schwarz explains the Volt is an electric vehicle with an on-board gasoline-powered generator. It can be recharged in 8 hours using a standard 110-volt household outlet or in 4 hours with an optional 240-volt charger.

“We’ll be showing our students the differences between this vehicle and a normal vehicle, and what it takes to service it,” he said. “We’ll examine the battery and the electric motors and the on-board computers.”

Schwarz says the Volt will run up to 40 miles on electricity alone before it starts using gasoline, which greatly increases its mpg fuel efficiency. It costs approximately 80 cents to $1 for a 40-mile charge.

The Volt uses a computer system to charge and discharge various parts of the battery so that it is never fully charged or without a charge, he adds.

“This is what is unique about the Volt compared to other hybrid vehicles,” Schwarz says. “It extends the life of the battery’s life and increases the mileage you get get per charge. The Volt has 18 different batteries in one module and each section can be charged and discharged based on its state of charge and how much energy you’re needing.”

For example, if you’re sailing down a level highway, you are going to need less power than if you’re traveling up a mountain.

“When it’s a low load, you might only use one or two sections [of the battery], versus stepping on the accelerator to go wide open in the mountains. Then you might turn on the gasoline engine [for extra power], which is not connected to the wheels, but to the generator.”

And how about price?

“The Volt sells for $40,000 and you can get a $7,500 federal rebate, so that’s about a $33,000 cost to the customer, at this point,” he says.

New technology amps up training

The Volt is the harbinger of a shift in automotive technology education.

“We are concentrating much more of our curriculum on electricity and electronics rather than the mechanical side of it,” Schwarz says. “The Volt has approximately 20 on-board computer modules operating the different systems. You can control the charging activity from an iPhone, iPad or a PC. You can control the time of day it’s charged so you charge it at low peak. It’s really high tech.”

Keeping up with the technological advances is par for the course for auto mechanics.

“In the last 20 years, cars have gone from being basic mechanical devices to some of them having up to 30 or 40 computer modules that require a laptop or computer-based diagnostic tools,” he explained. “If you’re an auto mechanic, you can never stop learning.”

Santa Fe offers both a vocational certificate and an associate’s degree in Automotive Technology. For more information, contact Professor Mario Schwarz at 352-395-5250 or mario.schwarz@sfcollege.edu, or Advisor Tom Mason at 352-395-5361 or tom.mason@sfcollege.edu, or visit visit http://dept.sfcollege.edu/intech/auto/.

~ Check out the Volt in Wikipedia

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