The new automotive expansion project will become the new home to the currently overcrowded alternative fuel classes offered on campus.
Pierce College currently offers two courses in the growing alternative fuel field for automotive students. There are the Automotive Service Technology 53: Introduction to Alternative Fuels and the Automotive Service Technology 55: Hybrid Service and Safety course.
Both courses are currently taught by Assistant Professor of Automotive Technology Micheal Van Dyke.
“This [alternative fuels] is a technology that when people go looking for a job in auto repair you need to be familiar with it,” said Van Dyke.
The department currently has seven alternative fuel vehicles, including a 1977 Volkswagen (VW) beetle that was converted to battery power by students in the automotive fabrication course.
They also have 2 Hondas, a 2008 Civic hybrid, and a 2009 Civic Certified Natural Gas (CNG) vehicle. Also, two working Norwegian Kuewits and one prototype Kuewit in need of repairs were donated to the department.
A brand new VW Jetta light vehicle diesel was also recently purchased with money from the Stem Grant, said Van Dyke.
“The department needs a lot more room to expand the technology,” said Tom Fortune, chairman of Industrial Technology.
There are many safety protocols that must be considered while working on hybrid vehicles that don’t have to be considered while working on standard motors.
“The electrical systems can be dangerous,” said Van Dyke. “You really need your own space while working on them.”
This need is supposed to be met with the completion of the automotive expansion project that is currently on hold.
The new building would include new labs specifically for use by the alternative fuels courses. These labs will provide ample space for working on vehicles.
“The alternative fuels courses are really popular,” said Fortune. “The hybrids more so since there are more of them on the road.”
Only one instructor teaches all the classes under the program, and there are about 20 students in each class.
“The program has a lot to offer,” said Kenny Leavitt, a 30-year-old auto tech major.
Leavitt has been a student in the Automotive Technology department for two and a half years and is working towards getting his Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications.
He helped tear down the Scion XP that is the next vehicle to be converted to electric by students in the department.
“Mike [Van Dyke] knows what he’s talking about,” said Leavitt. “And if you are trying to get a job with a dealership Pierce is a great place to get the knowledge.”
Jobs in alternative fuels are a growing field. With an increasing number of hybrids appearing on the roads it’s an important trade to teach to students, said Van Dyke.