Community college may teach repair for alternative fuel cars

Alternative fuel cars are much more complex and difficult to repair.

Western Colorado Community College could offer an alternative fuel car class next school year to prepare its transportation-services students for when the increasingly popular vehicles begin showing up in repair shops.

Gary Looft, transportation-services instructor at the community college, said he wrote a curriculum exploring the science behind alternative fuel vehicles such as hybrid electric cars and cars powered by fuel cells and propane. The curriculum included hands-on instruction with the cars.

Looft said his curriculum will be sent to the school’s curriculum committee for approval and could be offered as early as next fall or spring 2010.

The class is meant to provide students with a background on alternative fuel cars, Looft said, because the cars have been around long enough to start needing repairs.

“These cars are going to be hitting repair shops shortly,” Looft said.

“We need to get our students ahead of the game.”

Alternative fuel cars are much more complex and difficult to repair than traditional cars, Looft said.

For example, most alternative fuel cars have higher voltage electrical systems, he said, and mechanics must wear special, insulated gloves while working on them for safety.

The class curriculum will delve into the theory behind alternative fuel technology and is designed for upper-level students at the community college,  Looft said.

“It’s going to be about 80 percent theory and 20 percent diagnostics,” Looft said.

Securing cars for students to tinker with is difficult, Looft said, because most mass-
produced alternative fuel cars such as hybrids are still under warranty.

Looft said he has taken alternative-fuel car classes from Honda and Ford, and Ford agreed to provide some vehicles for demonstrations.

Looft said he is exploring the possibility of having students build an alternative-fuel car in conjunction with engineering students from the Mesa State College campus as a class project, or they could convert a traditional car into an alternative-fuel vehicle.

“It’s always a possibility,” he said.

The transportation-services department teaches students fundamentals of car mechanics, and Looft said the department is undergoing an overhaul to update obsolete technology and curriculum being used.


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