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EV Education Evolves in Northeastern Pennsylvania

As more and more consumers shift to electric vehicles, there is a greater need for specialized technicians to work on such cars, and students and seasoned mechanics alike now see the need to get up to speed.

electric vehicle
(TNS) — Sylvester Chevrolet technician Danny Vislosky evolves with the auto industry.

Now he's preparing for the electric surge.

"You have to learn how to be an electrician, basically," the 19-year mechanic said.

As more and more consumers shift to electric vehicles, there is a greater need for specialized technicians to work on such cars. Students and seasoned mechanics alike now see the need to get up to speed at local colleges, trade schools and dealerships.

Two technicians at Sylvester Chevrolet in Blakely continuously receive training through General Motors as the dealership works to prepare staff for the future of repairs, sales consultant Amanda Kanuik said.

"It's going to be progressive for probably years because the technology is going to change so fast," Kanuik said.

With half of Chevrolet's line of vehicles expected to be electric by about 2035, Kanuik stressed the importance of educating technicians to work on all types of cars.

"You're probably going to have some that are predominantly electric, but you're going to need to have some technicians that are cross-trained to still work on gas vehicles," she said. "We're starting to sell (EVs) now, so we're getting them trained so when they come back for service, we're all set up and ready to go."

While Kanuik expects to see electric versions of the Blazer, Equinox and Silverado at the dealership in the near future, she noted Chevy Bolts have been in demand in 2023. She credits a government incentive for boosting sales.

"They're so popular that we can't keep them on the lot," she said. "Once they came out with the $7,500 tax credit at the beginning of the year, it's been nonstop with people looking for them."

Global sales of electric cars have kept rising strongly in 2022, with 2 million sold in the first quarter, up 75% from the same period in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.

Luzerne County Community College took advantage of grant funding to provide students with the opportunity to work on a hybrid vehicle at its facility in Nanticoke, automotive instructor Jason Sherrill said.

"It's the direction the industry is going in and something that is definitely needed," he said. "We're trying to stay as current as possible, and maybe even out in front of it, as we try to see where these trends go."

Sherrill noted working on the hybrid vehicle provides a good base for the students who hope to eventually move on to full electric cars.

"There aren't many differences other than the management of both the gasoline and electric drive systems," he said.

The familiarity of the gas engine gives aspiring technicians peace of mind, he said.

"They know how to work on those but the hybrid side of it brings in the electric motors," Sherrill said. "It's a good transition from a comfort level to something new."

As technology evolves, instructors are tasked with teaching the trade in a safe environment.

"Our number-one priority is the safety side of how to properly service these vehicles," Sherrill said.

The change in perception and responsibilities led more students to enroll in the class, he said.

"We're very much getting away from the days of dirty fingernails and busted knuckles to being able to use advanced test equipment and computers to diagnose vehicles," Sherrill said.

Liability reasons prevent students from working on electric vehicles at the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County, but automotive technology instructor Bryan Peck hopes to bring modern training to the Scranton facility.

"It's a huge safety issue to have students working on them," Peck said. "I'm looking into attending some courses over the summer to get certified as an instructor. We might be a year or two away from having an actual electric vehicle. We're probably going to go toward hybrid first ... I think that's a little more attainable."

He also considered purchasing a trainer model so students can disconnect the battery safely without the risk of using a live battery.

Peck added there is a growing need for technicians as dealerships can't order electric vehicles without having someone in the service department certified in safety and servicing.

"A lot of manufacturers announced they're going to stop making internal combustion engines by 2030 and that's not really far away," he said.

Both automotive classes at the center are at full capacity with more students on a waiting list, Peck said.

Steve Homola, an automotive technology instructor at the Schuylkill Technology Center, also teaches the basics of electric vehicles without bringing danger into the equation.

"You can teach the concepts in a safe way, but actually working on a live vehicle is very dangerous," he said. "We've done some work on hybrid vehicles, just on the lower voltage side of it."

Homola also received a few electric vehicle battery donations to inform students about how the high voltage power sources work.

While the allure of learning how to fix their own vehicles likely led some students to the class in prior years, Homola believes the ability to make a quality living in the industry drives more participation.

"There are a lot of opportunities for advancement," he said. "It could be a very lucrative career."

© 2023 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.