Maine’s first hybrid and electric car repair class underway in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – Justin Hynes’ bulky rubber gloves whispered and squeaked as he worked, making noises just below gross bodily functions. Hynes smirked, shaking his head. His classmates burst out laughing.

But there was no way around it, embarrassing or not.

Hynes had to wear them, for safety reasons, while connecting a large 200-volt car battery for a hybrid to a computer, for testing.

Ruth Morrison and Mark Murphy are working on a hybrid car battery at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. Morrison, a teacher at the school, and Murphy, a certified automotive technician, both participate in a new teacher program established professionals how to diagnose and repair hybrid and electric car problems. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Students in the class are the first to enroll in a new Southern Maine Community College program teaching experienced auto technicians how to diagnose and maintain hybrid and electric cars. With a 32-hour online training course completed before arriving on campus, it is intended to prepare students to take the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence’s Hybrid and Light-Electric Vehicle Specialist Certification Test.

The program is the first of its kind in the state. Until now, the Mainers had to travel elsewhere to get this kind of hands-on training.

“Electric vehicles are clearly the wave of the future, and so far no training options have been available in Maine,” said Tim Winkeler, president and CEO of VIP Tires and Service, who sent three of his auto technicians to the class. . “With sales of electric vehicles growing rapidly in Maine, the United States and around the world, VIP needs workers certified for electric vehicles. “

Hynes, the cheeky gloved VIP technician, said he was eager to be part of the inaugural class.

Students and instructors work together to diagnose hybrid car battery issues at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. The new class, which is the first of its kind in the state, teaches technicians Repair shops established how to diagnose and repair hybrid and electric vehicles. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

“My store in Yarmouth sees two or three hybrid cars a week,” he said.

But without specialized training in electric vehicles, Hynes and his fellow technicians had to turn away many potential customers, telling them they had to take their cars to a dealership.

This will now change.

“Our company sees the writing on the wall,” Hynes said. “We want to be at the forefront of what’s to come.

The weeklong course, held at the Community College Seaside Campus in South Portland, is sold out. The college plans to offer more courses in 2022.

The current course is run as part of the college’s workforce training program for local businesses and workers. The program offers learning opportunities in a number of areas, including computers, welding, construction, medical assistance, manufacturing – and now hybrid and electric cars.

Ruth Morrison, chair of the college’s automotive technology department, is also taking the course.

Future Tech’s instructor Mark Quarto explains the intricacies of electric car battery maintenance and repair at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. The New Class, which teaches car repair technicians established how to diagnose and repair hybrid and electric vehicles, is the first of its kind in Maine. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

“I have been excited about this technology for a long time,” said Morrison. “Now is the time to do it because there are more and more hybrid and electric cars on the road. The shortage of qualified technicians is on the verge of becoming an international crisis.

The community college brought in a hybrid and electric car specialist from Las Vegas-based company Future Tech to teach the first course. After this course, Morrison will assume the teaching duties.

By the middle of the week, Hynes was enjoying the class. He said learning electric cars wasn’t much more difficult than staying up to date on other modern and complex vehicles.

“It’s different but the same,” he said. “It’s just new technology.”

Joe Moore, another college auto instructor who takes the course, agreed. He said diagnosing and repairing electric cars was a natural progression.

“We are puzzle solvers,” said Moore. “We’re fixing things. “

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Sylvia F. Hernandez