As the automotive industry continues to advance toward an electric future, it is witnessing massive shifts in technology, workforce, supply chains and its manufacturing base. Amid this once-in-a-century technological revolution, it is imperative that automakers train the current and future workforce to support their ambitious electric-vehicle goals.
OEMs already have started preparing to meet increased demand for EVs and, in turn, have created many new types of jobs and roles, which are set to grow even further. To address the need to fill these roles and bridge the current skills gap, key players in business, government and higher education must work in tandem to prepare the next generation of the workforce for the transition to EVs.
That’s why programs such as the EcoCAR EV Challenge are so critical, helping build the EV talent pipeline through cutting-edge automotive engineering education and practical application. Managed by Argonne National Laboratory and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and MathWorks, the EcoCAR EV Challenge is a collegiate competition uniquely designed to support the workforce talent needed to advance the next generation of EVs.
Working closely with mobility and government leaders on a curriculum specifically tailored to align with future industry needs, these competitions help address the toughest mobility challenges facing our nation, while building a clean energy workforce that reflects the diversity of North America.
During the four-year competition, teams from 15 North American universities are tasked with complex, real-world technical EV challenges. Throughout the program, students receive hands-on experience, with participating teams tasked with re-engineering a 2023 Cadillac Lyriq, provided by GM, to add new energy-efficient and customer-friendly features – for example, enhancing the vehicle’s propulsion system to optimize energy efficiency. This provides an opportunity for participating students to graduate with the skills and experience needed to begin contributing to the development of EVs and Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) systems as soon as they begin their careers.
Developing Essential EV and CAV Engineering Skillsets Through Hands-On Training
In addition to pivoting to EVs, the auto industry is also advancing the rapid design and deployment of CAV technologies. The Federal Communications Commission recently approved waivers for on-road deployment of C-V2X (Cellular-Vehicle to Everything) devices. The U.S. Department of Transportation also is gearing up to release its V2X National Deployment Plan by the end of this year. Automakers, meanwhile, are looking to CAV features to improve energy consumption, safety and convenience as automated driving features grow in popularity.
As part of the EcoCAR EV Challenge, students get the full experience of designing, developing and deploying automated driving systems. They work with complex vehicle control and safety systems by using industry testing and validation processes and methodologies. They will have an opportunity to utilize a combination of onboard sensors and bidirectional V2X connectivity to implement energy-efficient automated control features designed to enhance the driving experience.
The result: Each re-engineered Lyriq will demonstrate cooperative adaptive cruise control using team-designed perception systems and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. The vehicles also will be capable of navigating a connected corridor using vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication technology. Teams will deploy these features with a unique focus on minimizing energy consumption through making energy-mindful computational hardware decisions, integrating eco-driving control strategies and deploying V2X technology.
This experience positions EcoCAR graduates to immediately contribute to the auto industry upon graduation. It also puts students at the cutting edge of the auto industry.
A Longstanding Heritage in Building Workforce Skills in the Automotive Industry
For more than 30 years, Advance Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) have provided some 30,000 college students at 95 universities across North America with an unparalleled educational experience. Programs such as EcoCAR and other AVTCs managed by Argonne National Laboratory provide real-world training to lay the foundation on which these students will build their automotive careers. These programs are preparing the auto industry leaders of the future by providing them with the necessary knowledge and skillsets to pave the way for tomorrow’s auto industry advances, helping develop a highly skilled, knowledgeable workforce that will shape future energy-efficient automotive innovations.
Jesse Alley (pictured, above left) is the EcoCAR EV Challenge Senior Program Manager at Argonne National Laboratory.