Students at the Lafayette, Ind., campus of Ivy Tech Community College, a National Training Center member of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium, have been in the fast lane when it comes to gaining hands-on experience with a variety of alternative fuels and the latest electric vehicle technologies.

Purdue University recently hosted two high profile racing events that challenged college students from around the country to design, build and race electric-powered go karts.

The second annual Purdue evGrandPrix was April 30 in West Lafayette, Ind., while the inaugural Purdue Collegiate evGrandPrix took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 7.

Two teams of students from Ivy Tech – Lafayette participated in both races, with the No. 3 Ivy Green Racing Team taking third place overall at the Purdue evGrandPrix and the No. 4 iTech Electric Racing Team taking second place overall at the Collegiate evGrandPrix.

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Members of Team Ivy Green Racing stand next to the No. 3 kart at the Purdue evGrandPrix on April 30. Credit: Jonathan Combs/Ivy Tech – Lafayette

The evGrandPrix races were devised as a way to engage students and promote automotive technology within the community as part of an outreach initiative by the Indiana Advanced Electric Vehicle Training and Education Consortium (I-AEVtec).

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The Ivy Tech No. 3 and No. 4 electric-powered go karts race at the Purdue evGrandPrix April 30. Credit: Jonathan Combs/Ivy Tech – Lafayette

The I-AEVtec is a partnership between Purdue University, University of Notre Dame, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana University Northwest, Purdue University Calumet and Ivy Tech Community College. Awarded in 2009, the I-AEVtec grant from the U.S. Department of Energy provided the funds necessary to start the evGrandPrix and other projects throughout the state.

According to its mission statement, the I-AEVtec brings together the leading technical colleges and universities in Indiana to “establish a program to educate and train the workforce needed to design, manufacture and maintain advanced electric vehicles and the associated infrastructure.”

The evGrandPrix is more than just a race, though; it’s a unique opportunity for students to get firsthand, real-world experience working in a developing field with technology that has the potential to transform the American automotive industry. It was also an example of the unique interdisciplinary approach at Ivy Tech – Lafayette that allowed several different programs to work together on the project.

Students from the Automotive Technology Program installed the components for the electric motor, batteries, braking system and electronic controls. Welding students created the bumper, side bars and roll cage, while Machine Tool Technology Program students fabricated mounts for installing the various components. In addition, publicity posters, team logos and the Ivy Green Racing Facebook page were developed by students in the Design Technology Program.

“Not only are our students getting the theory and lab experience, but we now have a venue where students are applying the course content in a high pressure, spirited and competitive environment,” said Eric Erskin, chair of Ivy Tech – Lafayette’s Automotive Technology Program. “We teach the material every day, but students don’t always get the opportunity to apply it in an environment such as the evGrandPrix.”

With funding from a grant received by the I-AEVtec, Ivy Tech – Lafayette has begun developing a 21-credit electric and hybrid vehicle certificate that will prepare students for careers in the emerging automotive industry.

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Students in Eric Erskin’s Advanced Hybrid Vehicle and Electric Technologies course run a Toyota Prius on Ivy Tech – Lafayette’s chassis dynamometer. Credit: Ivy Tech – Lafayette

As part of the program’s goal to incorporate as much hands-on experience into classes as possible, students have had the opportunity to be involved in several complete electric vehicle conversions.

The first conversion was performed on a donated Chevrolet S-10 this past fall. During the spring semester, students from Erskin’s Advanced Hybrid Vehicle and Electric Technologies course performed a conversion on a 1990 Isuzu Impulse.

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This 1995 Chevrolet S-10 Pick-up was converted to run on electricity by students from Ivy Tech Community College – Lafayette. Credit: Ivy Tech – Lafayette

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This is the 1990 Isuzu Impulse that Ivy Tech Community College – Lafayette students have converted to run on electricity. Credit: Ivy Tech – Lafayette

Under Erskin’s supervision, students have been doing all the work, including removing the old engine, designing mounts to hold new components, reworking the vehicle’s transaxle, installing the new electric motor and reworking much of the electrical system. Both converted vehicles were displayed at the evGrandPrix in Indianapolis where students and instructors answered questions about the conversion process.

Erskin noted that the program hopes to purchase more electric vehicles, including a Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. The college also has exciting plans to expand the Electric Vehicle Program that will be announced in the near future. In general, the development of the Electric Vehicle Program represents a dynamic shift in the curriculum being offered at Ivy Tech – Lafayette, with a strong emphasis placed on developing technologies and alternative fuels.

In addition to electric vehicles, Ivy Tech – Lafayette also offers certificates and degrees in alternative fuels, as featured in the March edition of the NAFTC eNews.

The Alternative Fuels Program gives students a unique opportunity to work with vehicles that run on diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen and compressed natural gas. This summer, students enrolled in the Liquid Petroleum Gas I course will be performing a complete propane conversion under the supervision of alternative fuels instructor Reed Cooper.

“The future of the automotive industry is being researched and developed right now around the country,” Erskin explained, “and we want our graduates to be prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to work on that emerging technology as soon as it becomes available.”

For more information about Ivy Tech Community College – Lafayette’s Automotive Technology program visit or contact Automotive Technology Program Chair Eric Erskin at

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