Dutch students visit career center for primer on hybrid car mechanics

Posted 6/24/10

As the automotive industry develops more complicated systems, the level of training must grow with those vehicles.

The hybrid fleet that has started to sweep the industry has spawned a new need for highly trained automotive technicians and …

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Dutch students visit career center for primer on hybrid car mechanics

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As the automotive industry develops more complicated systems, the level of training must grow with those vehicles.

The hybrid fleet that has started to sweep the industry has spawned a new need for highly trained automotive technicians and mechanics.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing they are very dangerous,” says Bill Cilli.

An instructor in the automotive technology department at the Warwick Area Career & Technical Center (WACTC), Cilli is an expert in auto repair, but also has specialized training in hybrid repair.

“If you follow the rules and safety precautions you’re okay,” said Cilli.

He has taken classes at the Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC) in Worcester, Mass., where they specialize in hybrid training.

Craig Van Batenburg, owner of ACDC, has been working on hybrids since they came to the U.S. in 1999. He has spent years educating and training technicians on proper repair techniques.

“We are teaching people how not to kill themselves,” said Van Batenburg.

A conventional automobile runs on a 12-voltage (volt) battery, hybrids run on 100 or higher volt batteries. In addition to the voltage there is also amperage. Amperage (amps) is used to ignite the spark plugs in the engine system.

“Hybrids run on 150 amps. It only takes one quarter of one amp to burn your organs,” said Van Batenburg.

Because of voltage and amperage potential technicians need to learn how to safely disconnect the big battery and how to drain the stored electricity from the inverter. If they are improperly trained the results could be catastrophic.

A group of automotive instructors and managers from the Netherlands, who were studying at ACDC, recently paid a visit to Cilli to see different teaching methods used at the school.

“They toured the facility and the Dutch teachers met with the other teachers in the school and were encouraged to ask anything they wanted,” said Deb Van Batenburg, event planner for ACDC.

The school holds the “Up Your Voltage” hybrid seminar five times a year, and touts it as five days of hybrid heaven.

“After teaching hybrid technology in classrooms for years, I kept hearing the same request, ‘I want an extensive hands-on class,’” Craig Van Batesburg says on his website.

Van Batenburg developed the five-day program during which attendees study, drive, test, scan, scope, service and dismantle hybrids.

For more than a week the Van Batenburg’s traveled with the Dutchmen in the ACDC hybrid fleet to classrooms, shops, museums, dealerships and schools to learn and share what the two countries have in common, especially focusing on hybrids.

“They came here to visit the high school program. In 2005, the Automotive Industry Planning Council ranked our program number one in the U.S.A.,” said Cilli.

ACDC took advantage of the school’s close proximity to Worcester and fact that they have received multiple awards, to further educate their foreign students.

“Schools that leap ahead to what’s new are better schools to visit,” said Deb Van Batenburg.

This class was the first all Dutch group, it is normally a mix of auto shop owners, people from the auto industry and college and high school teachers.

“They liked it, they felt very respected because the [WACTC] principal addressed them and the superintendent of schools came down,” said Deb Van Batenburg.

The Dutchmen and the WACTC teachers discussed how the curriculum works and common problems they have had with students.

“They asked about how to motivate slow responders,” said Deb Van Batenburg.

ACDC has been traveling to Europe every September for years, conducting hybrid seminars, maintaining a strong international relationship with hybrid educators and technicians.

A common misconception about the hybrid, and mechanical profession in general, is that highly intelligent people should steer clear. Van Batenburg says that in the 60’s and 70’s people of average intelligence could do most automobile related jobs, but that has all changed over the past several years.

“The vast majority of people don’t know that [things have changed] because they don’t understand how their car works and they don’t want to understand,” said Van Batenburg.

Van Batenburg, who says he has never missed a day of work that he didn’t want to, stresses the fact that these types of jobs can never be outsourced.

“If you sit in front of a computer you can be replaced instantly, but if your car breaks down where are you going to get it fixed?” said Van Batenburg.

The idea of lifelong employment is appealing to just about everyone and this profession seems to offer just that, for this lifetime anyways.

“This is a great field to be in. People should start by getting a great education at schools like the career center and New England Tech,” said Van Batenburg.

Holland is the fifth most hybrid populated country in the world with America being the first, followed by Japan, Germany and England. ACDC has hosted students from Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Kenya and now the Netherlands. For more information on ACDC programs go to www.fixhybrid.com.

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