UCCS, CU-Boulder team for electric vehicle development studies

Department of Energy grant aims to prepare engineers for new careers






Faculty from the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Colorado Colorado Springs will team to teach courses in the design and implementation of electric vehicle drivetrains to new and retraining engineers.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded a five-year, $954,000 grant to UCCS for the development of courses to prepare engineers for careers in developing new technologies for vehicles that use electric drivetrains. The master’s-level courses will be taught by UCCS and CU-Boulder faculty members with expertise in batteries, battery controls and power electronics.

The courses will be available through distance-learning technologies such as online courses and, possibly, CISCO Telepresence, in addition to traditional in-person classrooms, making them available to people nationwide.

“There are thousands of engineers who have either been displaced as the U.S. auto industry shifted or who have an interest in learning about creating vehicles of the future,” said Greg Plett, professor in the UCCS College of Engineering and Applied Science. “This program offers them the opportunity to retrain without relocating.”

Plett, principal investigator on the project, has spent his career working with battery controls and has close relationships to many Colorado-based companies that manufacture batteries or their controls as well as large corporations such as General Motors. He is working with General Motors engineers on new methods for battery controls in future extended-range electric vehicles beyond the Chevy Volt.m

CU-Boulder already offers its power electronics courses online – with high enrollment – and also offers a successful Certificate in Power Electronics program.

The GATE Center of Excellence in Innovative Drivetrains in Electric Automotive Technology Education will provide students the opportunity to earn a graduate certificate in electric drivetrain technology by taking four courses in battery dynamics, battery controls, power electronics and detailed courses in adjustable alternating current drives. Plans also call for creating options for students in master’s of science in electrical engineering programs at UCCS and CU-Boulder to pursue specialization in fields such as battery controls, taught by UCCS faculty, and vehicle power electronics, taught by CU-Boulder faculty.

“This program combines the strengths of the faculty of two CU campuses for the benefit of students,” said Plett, who also believes the collaboration will lead to new research in battery technology. Battery life and power outputs have long been considered hindrances to the development of electric vehicles including cars, trucks and mass transit vehicles.

Plett envisions that fellowships to reduce the cost of the graduate coursework will be available with 30 to 40 students enrolled annually beginning with the fall 2012 semester.

Working with Plett will be Scott Trimboli, assistant professor in the UCCS College of Engineering; Regan Zane, associate professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at CU-Boulder; and Dragan Maksimovic, professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering at CU-Boulder.