Sunday, December 26, 2010

And now a word from our sponsor...

On December 20th I received notice that our Hybrid Trainer / Sand Rail project is to receive funding from the Innovation Grant Fund of the NMC Foundation. I applied for the grant back in November and could not be happier to have this sponsorship awarded to our department. This should allow us to have the trainer in "rolling chassis" form, ready to show at the NMC Energy Expo & Aero Park Laboratories Open House on January 15. This event will serve as the grand opening of NMC's fourth building on the Aero Park Campus. This building will house NMC's Renewable Energy and Construction Technology classes starting with the spring 2011 semester. For more information on this event, please visit NMC's website here. The Aero Park Laboratory is located directly across the street from our Automotive Service Technology building, so I couldn't help but notice their new wind turbine being installed last week. I just happened to have my camera with me, so here is a picture of the turbine being set up:

 I would like to send a big Thank You to the Foundation for their sponsorship. If you are following this blog and are interested in renewable energy, please make plans to attend the Grand Opening on January 15. There will be numerous exhibitors and industry experts there to answer your questions. And, time permitting, we will be showing our trainer and answering questions about hybrid electric vehicles. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

See Spot.

Spot is the newest addition to our hybrid vehicle fleet. He was a "test mule" for Ford Motor Company. Please forgive his strange appearance. Automotive publications try to be the first to release photographs of prototype vehicles, and manufacturers go to great lengths to foil their efforts. Mission accomplished. This Mercury Milan Hybrid was used to gather information during the testing phase before it's actual roll out for public purchase. The amount of wiring, sensors and gauges found inside this vehicle is staggering. It was literally a rolling laboratory. But alas, newer models are now under development and Spot was no longer of use to Ford. But here at NMC's Automotive Service Technology department, we are fortunate to be able to give him a new home. And we are grateful to Ford for their generosity in allowing us to adopt him. In his retirement he will provide numerous opportunities for our students to learn skills that will make them valuable employees. And we, in return, will take good care of Spot.   

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Phase one is under way

The frame has arrived from Berrien Buggy! In this picture, the front axle assembly has been bolted on and the Prius drive train has been "mocked up". This means that it has not yet been truly installed. It is merely placed in the approximate position where it will be permanently mounted. There are many factors to be considered before the exact position of the engine/transaxle is determined. If it is positioned too far forward, the rear tires will rub on the frame at the point where the frame widens. If the position is too low, the axle shafts will contact the lower frame rails when the suspension drops. Another factor to consider is whether to mount the radiator in front of the engine or possibly at the rear of the roll cage. The process of sorting out all of these details will be a learning exercise for the students. I always welcome any activity that requires critical thinking skills. A successful auto repair technician needs more than keen knowledge of how the various subsystems work together. One must also posses the ability to identify potential problems and come up with solutions. Textbooks, quizzes, and hours upon hours of study is where we start. The lab is where we continue the process. My reward is bearing witness to the "Aha!" moments when someone grasps a concept and their confidence level kicks up another notch. 

For a closer look, click on the picture and it will open up in full size. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Let's Start at the Beginning...

This blog will be a running diary of my experience as an instructor of hybrid automotive technology. Beginning with the spring 2011 semester, Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Michigan will offer training in this area of automotive repair. Follow along and try to pay attention. You might just learn a thing or two.

A Unique Off Road Project

One part of the class will be to transplant the complete hybrid drivetrain from a wrecked 2004 Toyota Prius into the rear of a Berrien Buggy sand rail. Don't assume from the pictures that this car could be saved. It was punched very hard in the rear and driven into another car. Some of our students from various classes volunteered to help strip the donor car to the shell. These guys wasted no time removing the engine, electric machine, transmission, suspension and every inch of wiring from the car. It took them less than six hours to pick the car clean.

And here's the prize: The engine, electric machine, transaxle and voltage converter.

Photo courtesy of Berrien Buggy

And now let's look at where this project is headed. This is a Stalker sand rail frame from Berrien Buggy, built right here in Michigan. The front wheel drive hybrid drivetrain will find a new home in the rear of this frame. For those of you who are wondering "Why?", let me explain. Our original idea was to mount the engine on a stand, allowing us to run it for the purpose of training our students. But with no way to introduce a load on the battery pack, it could not serve our purpose. The completed buggy will allow us to test the system under actual driving conditions. It will also allow for plenty of room to mount all of the other components such as the battery pack, computers and associated wiring in such a way that it will be easy for a group of people to observe and test the individual systems. The buggy will also be shown in area car shows as a means of showing the community that NMC is keeping up with current technology in the automotive service technology field. And it might even help us to recruit new students for our program. We will hopefully be bringing in students from our engineering program to help with the massive amount of fabrication that will be required to build this one of a kind vehicle. Another idea is to involve our local high school tech program in painting it when the fabrication is complete. I would like to involve as many students as possible in this project. Because they are what this is all about.