Major automobile manufacturers such as Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation (GM) are seeking qualified engineers to build their hybrid teams. Although the automakers have recently let go approximately 1,500 engineers who worked on suspension systems, chassis, and other vehicle parts, demand for hybrid engineers is increasing. These engineers have highly-desired skills in designing and developing mechanical and electrical systems (mechatronics), writing computer software to control gasoline-electric powertrains, and developing powertrain controls.
Ford hopes to add about fifty hybrid engineers to its 350-member hybrid team already in place. Tom Watson, Ford’s hybrid-electric vehicle propulsion system engineering manager, said engineers who can design and test small, powerful, and lightweight electric motors are needed.
“They (engineers with hybrid skills) are difficult to find,” said Watson. “In general, I see a need for more universities to train kids in these skills.”
Larry Nitz, executive director of GM’s global hybrid powertrains, said the company acquired most of its hybrid team from within. Many of GM’s engineers who had experience working with gasoline or diesel-electric powertrains and electric vehicles became GM hybrid engineers. In addition, members of GM’s former Electro-Motive Division, which made diesel-electric locomotives, engineers who worked on GM’s EV1 electric car, and employees of GM’s former Hughes Aerospace Division also made the transition to working on hybrids. The company specifically is looking for those trained to write software for powertrain controls and who have expertise in battery and electric motor technology.
Although demand for hybrid engineers in the United States is increasing, Japanese automakers like Toyota Motor Corporation claim that they have all the hybrid engineers they need. Dave Hermance, Toyota’s executive engineer for environmental engineering, said the company uses powertrain and battery experts already working for Toyota on its hybrid team, although only its top engineers work on hybrids.
Automakers generally will not comment on how much hybrid engineers earn compared with other automotive engineers. However, a starting salary estimate for an engineer trained in powertrain controls or electric motors or with battery expertise is $70,000$75,000.