Otto Jun and his wife Sidney have owned electric cars for three years. First, it was a BMW i3. Now, they have a Tesla.
The Long Beach couple’s reasons for going electric aren’t unusual.
“The first reason was green,” Otto Jun said. “The second was the economics of gasoline and electric and then there is the carpool lane.”
Luckily for them, whenever they have had a breakdown, all they had to do was reach out to the dealership, where they have gotten quick responses.
But what if your Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Bolt breaks down on Interstate 15 on the way to Las Vegas? Chances are you will get towed to a gas station and chances are the mechanic won’t have the slightest clue how to fix your electric car.
In fact, according to the Institute of the Motor Industry, as many as 97% of active auto mechanics aren’t qualified to work on electric cars. And the 3% who can fix the car are mostly employed at a manufacturer dealership.
Long Beach City College is in the fast lane to repair that issue by offering a class called Automotive 271: Intro to Electric and Hybrid Vehicles. The class, taught by professor Greg Ling, starts in two weeks on LBCC’s Pacific Coast campus.
“Not many people know how to work on these vehicles in the area,” said Ling, who teaches in the Advanced Transportation Technology Automotive Program, “so it’s a sweet spot for Long Beach City because we’re situated right between both ports (of Long Beach and Los Angeles) plus Long Beach Transit, plus LA Metro, plus Long Beach fleet services. This campus is almost perfect in its location.”
The automotive program at LBCC has been running on empty since the program was discontinued in 2008 except for three classes offered last academic year. But thanks to Ling — and with a little help from his friends at Mitsubishi and Southern California Edison, just to name two — the program is up and running.
“We have $2 million worth of new equipment thanks to grants,” said Gene Carbonaro, dean of Career and Technical Education. “It has been a total transformation. We had equipment from the ’60s and ’70s in our shop and now we have computers in the labs and the shops that have the latest wiring diagrams and service information for each vehicle.”
Ling said students will be working on top-of-the-line cars, including Mitsubishi’s H-PEVs (hybrid-plug in electric vehicles), a Tesla S, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, which runs on compressed natural gas, and three large engines that are on Long Beach Transit’s electric bus fleet.
“We are one of the first colleges in the nation to get Mitsubishi’s cars,” Ling said. “It’s the world’s best-selling H-PEV. It has more than 182 battery cells and students will learn about every cell because that’s the best way to learn about electric vehicles — because you’ll know every component and you’ll know how to check and verify each of the connections.”
According to Consumer Reports, there are more than one million electric vehicles on the road in the U.S. There has been an 81% increase in electric vehicle purchases from 2017 to 2018 where automakers report selling 361,307 electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrids), up from 199,826 in 2017.
“Every manufacturer is moving toward electrification, so as this demand increases we hope to bridge that,” said Ling, who taught auto classes at Millikan High School from 1992 to 2000.
Ling and Carbonaro are seeing another place where demand is increasing — in their auto classes.
“Without any marketing, we already have, like, tripled our enrollment,” Carbonaro said. “We weren’t looking to make partnerships with large companies, either; we just want to get the curriculum straight and get students and build enrollment. But large companies are coming to us, like Southern California Edison. They said we have $50,000. Would you like to use that for your advance transportation class?
“Once people know auto is back, I can’t see us not doing well. Our hope is to become a training facility that feeds right into dealerships.”
For more information on LBCC’s auto programs, go to www.lbcc.edu/program-automotive-technology or call 562-938-3224.