When you look at a Holden Commodore, you're not likely to see a "green" car staring back at you. (That is, assuming you're in Australia where the Commodore is sold. Or in the UK where you can get a Vauxhall VXR8. Or here in the US where it's rebadged as a Chevy SS or before that as a Pontiac G8 or GTO.) It is, in many cases after all, a big, rear-drive V8 muscle sedan. Not, in other words, known for its frugal sipping of fuel. But that didn't have to be the case.
If working on high-tech batteries like the units pictured above or developing complex hybrid powertrains is your cup of tea, then boy are you a lucky one. As countless automakers turn their attention towards a future filled with electric and hybrid vehicles, the demand for mechatronics engineers will only continue to grow.
This fall, Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit will become the first university in the United States to offer a full graduate engineering degree program in electric drive systems. Wayne joins the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and other schools in developing programs that aim to provide engineers with the expertise needed to develop the next generation of vehicles that don't rely on internal combustion engines for propulsion.
For over a century, the training of automotive engineers has focused on creating vehicles propelled by internal combustion engines. Electrical and mechanical engineers have worked on piston engines, transmissions and all manner of related systems. The future holds new directions for transportation, much of which revolves around electric drive systems. That means veterans and upcoming engineers need new skill sets.