‘Very big opportunity’: College of Lake County expanding electric vehicle curriculum

As the popularity of electric vehicles grows, automotive programs at the College of Lake County in Grayslake and elsewhere are getting a financial boost to keep pace with the technology.

CLC is among 25 schools that will receive grants through the Illinois Community College Board’s Rev Up EVs at Community Colleges program. It’s part of the Illinois Climate Equitable Jobs Act, a state directive to reduce carbon emissions and transition to a green economy.

  Students work in an automotive technology class at the College of Lake County as a Tesla Model S, owned by the college and used for instruction on electric vehicles, sits in the foreground at the Grayslake campus. John Starks/

That will mean more equipment, vehicles and expanded offerings and possibilities for students who want to work in the automotive field. CLC, which has wanted to expand its educational EV footprint, is one of the larger grant recipients at $524,998.

“We want to make sure our students will be able to work on anything,” said Felipe Valtierra, department co-chair and automotive technology instructor. “We're training our students to work in the industry.”

The work is bound to include more electric vehicles. According to CarEdge, nearly 1.2 million electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2023, the first time the number has exceeded 1 million. The 8.1% market share of fully-electric vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2023 also is a record, according to CarEdge.

The community college board has contracted with the Illinois Green Economy Network to coordinate training resources for instructors from across the state in areas including EV battery safety, passenger and heavy-duty EV maintenance and installation, and maintenance of EV charge stations, according to David Husemoller, IGEN executive director.

  Insulated tools used to work on electric vehicles in the automotive technology classes at the College of Lake County’s Grayslake campus are kept neat and clean. CLC is getting a $524,998 grant to expand programs involving electric vehicles. John Starks/

The organization will convene education and industry leaders to align educational and training needs with the workplace and develop state-of-the-art curricula to be shared with community colleges statewide, he added.

  A Chevrolet Bolt used for instruction on electric vehicles at the College of Lake County’s Grayslake campus. John Starks/

At CLC, work with electric and hybrid vehicles is spread in bits and pieces throughout the general automotive curriculum. The grant will allow the offerings to be expanded and focused.

“We're going to take all that curriculum and offer it as a stand-alone course,” Valtierra said. “We haven't been able to teach a whole class on EV or hybrids because we don't have enough tools.”

CLC is different from most community colleges in that it offers associate degrees and certificates in both traditional automotive and auto collision repair. About 530 students are enrolled in the programs, housed in separate locations on the Grayslake campus.

  The electric motor of a Chevrolet Bolt used for instruction at the College of Lake County Grayslake campus. Orange wires identify high-voltage. John Starks/

Each requires special protective equipment and tools to work on electric and hybrid vehicles, so the grant proceeds are planned to benefit both. That will mean a new curriculum, additional EV vehicles for students to work on, specialized tools and more.

“We’re going to be able to develop these courses and get equipment to train everyone,” Valtierra said.

For example, the entire underside of most electric vehicles is a battery, making what appears to be a typical passenger car as heavy as a diesel pickup.

  Felipe Valtierra, Automotive Technology Department co-chair and instructor at College of Lake County, drives a Tesla Model S owned by the college and used for instruction on electric vehicles at the Grayslake campus John Starks/

“We'll get a lot more of the special service tools,” said Derrek Keesling, auto department co-chair. “We want the ability to be able to drop these batteries and you need a special lift.”

Insulated tools and gloves to protect from high voltage are needed to work on EVs, and with the latest diagnostic scan tool selling for about $10,000, costs rise quickly.

“It’s a very big opportunity to expand the program and deliver the latest technology to the students,” Keesling said.

CLC officials said they expect to see increased interest and enrollment in noncredit, dual credit, and college credential offerings in the auto tech and auto collision repair departments.

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