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For High School Automotive Students the Future is Now

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When 28 students from the automotive program at San Jose’s Independence High School piled onto one of VTA’s electric buses Friday morning, they weren’t just taking a ride on the new zero emission vehicle. They were learning about the inner workings of it.

“The future is already happening,” said their instructor Sorin Neagu, “and we want them to be prepared to work on electric vehicles to keep up with where the automotive industry is heading.”

VTA Chief Innovation Officer Gary Miskell and his team led the tour of the Cerone Yard electric bus charging station, explaining how VTA's "Vehicle to Grid Integration" project works to charge and manage energy consumption for VTA's fleet of electric buses, a project which is also intended to inform transit agencies throughout California on the process. Transit agencies across the state are working toward a state mandated goal of having a full fleet of zero emission buses by the year 2040.

The Independence High School program is a launch pad for students who want to pursue careers in the automotive field. Neagu encourages them to move on to automotive programs at the junior college level to further their training.  On their field trip to VTA, the 15-17 year olds came to learn about the agency’s Vehicle to Grid Integration project, to power electric buses and manage the energy process.

“We started teaching the students in this program about electric vehicles last year,” said Neagu. “They have already replaced a gas powered engine with a fully electric engine in one of our cars.”

While 16-year old Christina Kep is one of only two young women in the program she says she’s doesn’t feel intimidated being in the minority. “I like working on cars,” she says. “I know the basics now, how to change oil, work on brakes, I’ve done welding.”

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Cortez already has a job at a local car dealership. He hopes to have his own mechanic’s business someday.  He was paying rapt attention to the explanation of how VTA’s electric chargers work with the new buses. “I have to learn more about electric vehicles and electronics.  I need to learn the basics first, and then move on to the new stuff,” said Cortez.

This visit was organized by a collaboration of Prospect Silicon Valley, which helped make the VGI project possible, and the Nova Workforce Development.  But VTA has a strong relationship with the Independence High School program, having hosted other classes in the past.

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