JANUARY 2010

Ford and UDM team up to teach old engineers new tricks

Ford Motor Company is teaming with the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) to retrain traditional automotive engineers, providing them with the skills and expertise to develop the next generation of advanced electric and hybrid vehicles.

As vehicle electrification plans expand, the automotive industry’s need for electric vehicle-savvy engineers also is growing, creating increased demand for electrical, mechatronics, systems and controls engineering education. Ford and UDM have collaborated to create a new graduate-level curriculum focused on key engineering skills for the development of electrified vehicles.

The UDM program will supplement Ford’s internal electrical engineering training courses as the company retrains its own employees to deliver an aggressive electric vehicle product strategy. The course series, which begins in January 2010, is designed to advance the knowledge and capabilities of technological team members in the automotive and defense ground vehicle industries.

“The era of electric vehicles is here and it’s critical that we meet this technology challenge by retraining our engineers with a broad range of new skills and competencies,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of global product development. “This program, together with internal training, will support Ford’s aggressive plans to roll out electric and hybrid vehicles in the coming years.”

Ford engineers are already at work developing three distinct types of electrified vehicles – hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure battery electric vehicles. The vehicles include:

  • Transit Connect battery electric commercial van in 2010,
  • Focus battery electric passenger car in 2011,
  • Next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012, and
  • Plug-in hybrid in 2012.

Kuzak added that the magnitude of the training program will be similar to the educational programs undertaken by Ford during the late 1980s when mechanical engineers were trained on electrical engineering.

The UDM Advanced Electric Vehicle Program will begin with the first group comprised of current engineers from Ford and its suppliers. Team members will apply the program’s coursework in developing the next generation of electric and hybrid vehicles. Approximately 125 Ford engineers will participate in the program over the next several years.

“We recognize a greater need for our teams to have access to programs to increase their knowledge of electrical, mechanical, chemical and software engineering,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford’s director of global electrification. “Ford has a large team of talented and dedicated engineers that are energized by the technological sea change we are seeing happen now in the industry.”

The UDM courses are supplementary to Ford’s internal online training programs in battery cells and electrochemistry, power-split controls, regenerative braking, calibration and commodity planning.

UDM has created seven new courses that are directly responsive to the training needs of Ford and the entire automotive and defense ground vehicles industries, said Dr. Leo E. Hanifin, dean of UDM’s College of Engineering & Science.

“The competencies achieved by these courses will enable teams from automotive OEMs and suppliers to develop the electric and hybrid vehicles that will keep the global leadership of the auto industry for this critical segment of the world’s transportation future right here in southeastern Michigan,” said Hanifin.

Engineers in this program will select five of the seven newly created courses that are designed by competency teams of Ford and UDM experts to deploy the most current technology, strategies, methods and tools emerging from universities, corporations and national laboratories.

These five courses will be completed in one calendar year. Most courses will be offered at the Ford Training and Development Center in Dearborn; others requiring laboratory experiences will be provided at UDM’s McNichols campus in Detroit. The Advanced Electric Vehicle Program courses include:

  • Introduction to Advanced Electric Vehicles
  • Controls Modeling and Design for Electric Vehicles
  • Energy Storage Systems
  • Power Electronics for Electric Vehicles
  • Electric Drives/Electromechanical Energy Conversion
  • Innovation and System Architecture for Electric Vehicles
  • System Engineering for Electric Vehicles