This article was adapted from a story by James Park in PG&E’s communications department.
What’re you going to do when your new high-tech electric vehicle goes on the blink? For PG&E, which is adding several hundred new hybrid and electric vehicles to its fleet, calling the Tappet brothers at Car Talk is not an option.
Instead, PG&E has gone into partnership with several community colleges to teach the utility’s fleet mechanics how to safely repair and maintain the new trucks and cars. Starting this month, about 175 fleet mechanics will be trained on safety, diagnostics and routine maintenance for the new vehicles. Classes will be taught over the course of three days by 14 instructors from local community colleges.
PG&E is adding about 250 Chevrolet Silverado light-duty trucks and Ford Escape hybrid passenger vehicles to its fleet along with some 50 electric and hybrid passenger vans and heavy-duty trucks manufactured by Altec, Eaton and Peterbilt.
“The hybrid vehicles are entirely new technology platforms,” said Mac Fernandez, PG&E master mechanic. “For example, there’s no such thing as doing just a simple brake job on these cars because they use regenerative braking technology.”
Fleet mechanics will be taught about the unique aspects of the vehicles, including appropriate diagnostic technology and special safety procedures associated with using electric hybrid battery packs, which have voltages as high as 800 volts.
Citing PG&E’s national leadership in alternate fuel technologies, Dave Meisel, PG&E’s director of Transportation Services, said “this program will provide a mechanism to ensure that our professional technicians and our customers alike will have access to some of the most sophisticated technical training on some of the most technologically advanced vehicles in the world today. The clean vehicle training program will allow PG&E and its transportation team to maintain its commitment to environmental leadership, employee development and community involvement.”
The partnership between PG&E and the community colleges is called the PowerPathway™ Clean Tech Vehicle Training Program. It’s part of a broader skills development program aimed at creating a trained workforce for PG&E and the utility industry in California under the PowerPathway™ umbrella.
The partnership with community college instructors will also help take curriculum knowledge back to California communities. Instructors will use techniques gained from teaching the utility’s fleet mechanics with their own students at local community colleges, developing technical skills and creating career paths.