What a great way to keep auto shop classes alive.
Auto shop classes have been dwindling in the United States as the high-budget course is simply too expensive for most schools to run. In the case of Memorial High School in West New York, New Jersey, shop teacher Ron Grosinger witnessed the elective course go from six teachers down to two. But Grosinger recognized shop class is still an important hands-on learning experience for students, so he found a way to keep it relevant for years to come.
"If you're teaching students about gasoline cars, that's basically the equivalent of 8-track players," says Grosinger. So in 2008, he approached the school with a new idea: teaching his students to convert a gasoline car into an electric car.
"With the electric car, I wanted to prove two things," says Grosinger. "First, that we could convert it. Everyone was telling me at the time that it was impossible when really, we just didn't have the option yet [on a large scale]. Second, and most importantly, I wanted to prove that kids are super capable. You just have to give them a chance."
After taking a two-week EV conversion course, the school allowed Grosinger to purchase his first vehicle to convert into an electric car: a 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet. "Volkswagen vehicles are known for their German engineering and affordability. They're built with no-nonsense and the parts are readily available," Grosinger says. "They're also relatively lightweight, which is great for electric conversion and helps keep the battery costs down for the class. All the money you put into them is worth it."
The class teaches students how to make parts from cardboard, then wood, then steel before they learn how to weld and wire. "We completely gutted the car and put it all back together," says Grosinger. Since beginning the program in 2008, it has expanded to four teachers and the school added an after-school automotive program. There are also more female students than when the program began. "The girls in my classes are amazing engineers," says Grosinger. "Through hands-on learning, I hope they are encouraged to maintain and broaden their interest in STEM careers."
Even the major tunning shops have jumped in the EV-swapping trend, with Tesla-powered sports cars and unique resto-mods with EV powertrains. Aston Martin will even make its classic vehicles electric so owners can drive them in cities with gasoline bans. This trend should continue to grow and people like Grosinger are preparing the youth of America to have a fine career swapping EV drivetrains into classics.