Michigan green mobility – moving technology, industry and education

By Kristine | MIAES

The drive toward green mobility standards in safety, emissions and fuel efficiency in the auto industry will take many avenues. Technologies in vehicle lightweighting, powertrain and connectivity – as well as opportunities to educate those working in green mobility – are some of the highlights of the Michigan Academy of Green Mobility Alliance (MAGMA) Advisory council meeting early this month.

The meeting, hosted by the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN), brought together industry and education stakeholders, Michigan Works agencies, and industry-related societies focusing on Michigan’s involvement and innovation in the future of green mobility.

“It was time to help more people become aware of MAGMA,” said Lisa Katz, WIN’s executive director. There continues to be a lot of discussion surrounding the electrification of vehicles, and there are opportunities to look deeper at that as well as other areas of technology, research and development, she said.

“From lightweighting for greater fuel economy and safety, to alternative energy storage, Michigan companies are navigating changes and pioneering new approaches. That means jobs but also the need for workers to be trained and ready in the latest technologies and processes,” said Katz


A panel discusses educational opportunities in training a workforce to meet industry needs in green mobility technology.
A panel discusses educational opportunities in training a workforce to meet industry needs in green mobility technology.

Education providers from the state’s Advanced Energy Storage Systems Initiative (AESSI) – of which MAGMA is a partner – took part in a panel discussion at the event. They shared with the close to 100 in attendance the opportunities for free training available through the AESSI grant. A variety of production, technician and engineering training classes are offered through grant partners Macomb Community College and Wayne State University. The flexible instruction courses are for companies that desire to train incumbent employees and for students interested in entering the workforce in an advanced energy storage related field.


MavaMarie Vandervennent from Ford shared about the the automaker's commitment to green mobility and participated in an industry panel discussion.
MavaMarie Vandervennent from Ford shared about the the automaker’s commitment to green mobility and participated in an industry panel discussion.

Representatives from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler also participated in a joint industry panel discussion on green mobility, and panelists from Delphi, AT&T and the Center for Professional Studies talked about other frontiers impacted by green mobility technology.

MAGMA’s purpose is to move green technology forward for Michigan, so there are people ready to accept the jobs that the industry is looking for, said Randall Champagne, who is the hybrid engineering project manager at General Motors. He’s been part of MAGMA’s leadership since its 2009 beginning.

In preparing for the needs of new engineers entering the automotive field, engineering schools would serve their students and industry well by continuing to offer more project-based curriculum, said Tony Tisler, one of MAGMA’s co-chairs and the manger of software controls in the electrified powertrain program for Chrysler. He said that since the vehicle development process is one that extends for four or five years, it’s critical new engineers have a comprehensive understanding of how all components work together. Moving forward, workers need to understand the integration of these new green technologies at the start of the vehicle development process, and the industry requires a large workforce with flexibility and cross-disciplinary engineering know-how, he said.

“This industry has accomplished a lot,” said Jay Baron, president and chief executive for the Center for Automotive Research (CAR). The five-year development process for a vehicle appears to outsiders as slow – but it’s all about technology, he said. The industry is seeing a lot more collaboration because there are so many new technologies to develop. Consumers are more geared toward creature comforts, he said. Industry has been more collaborative and interested in sharing development costs in certain technologies, and that collaboration also extends to auto suppliers. Some of the challenges in the industry are translating fuel economy into actual savings to the consumer. At this point, many consumers are reluctant to buy fuel economy. Another challenge the industry faces is a workforce able to keep up with accelerated speed at which the technology is being developed, Baron said.

That’s the purpose of MAGMA, Tisler said, to have these conversations with education providers and the green mobility market to determine what the industry needs and how those needs can be met.

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