By Rachel Darken, Administrative Assistant

On Thursday, November 14th, 24 students from James Madison Memorial High School embarked on a day-long field trip to learn about electric vehicles (EVs). The students represented a blend from grades 9-12 and are currently enrolled in Engineering and Consumer Auto classes.  For most this was their first opportunity to see a variety of EVs up close.

The field trip was jointly organized by Memorial High School teacher Miles Tokheim, Madison College auto instructors, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE), Zimbrick BMW, and the City of Madison Fleet Service team.  MGE generously covered the field trip costs, allowing students to attend for free.

Students examine underside of Chevrolet Bolt
Paul Flogel (center), Director of Automotive Technology at Madison College, shows students the underside of a Chevrolet Bolt. This Bolt is one of several purchased with grant-funding assistance from the Wisconsin State Office of Energy Innovation.

Students began their day with a visit to MGE’s main campus to learn about EV charging infrastructure and solar charging stations. Thanks to a partnership with Zerology, an eco-friendly car sharing company with a fleet of EVs, each student was able to take a ride in a Tesla and see first-hand what it’s like on the road inside a high performance EV.

Students examine equipment installed in a police squad
Mark Vander Waal, Fleet Foreperson, shows students the equipment that gets installed in one of the new police squads that Fleet Technician Roger Benda (right) is working on.

Next, the group came to Fleet’s central repair shop and headquarters to learn the basics of EV components, safety, and maintenance. Students were guided by Paul Flogel, the Director of Automotive Technology at Madison College, to look inside EVs owned by the City of Madison. Seeing up close the progression from a conventional gas engine, to a hybrid-electric engine, and finally to the fully-electric Chevrolet Bolt was eye-opening for many students. They learned the all-important rule of servicing hybrid and electric vehicles (i.e., orange wire = high voltage) and safety standards technicians follow while working on EVs.

Students see a fire engine needing repairs
Fleet Foreperson Mark Vander Waal shows students a ladder truck that has been brought in for repairs.

Students then got a chance to tour the garage, where the majority of the City’s fleet is serviced, with Fleet Foreperson Mark Vander Waal. Everything was on display: the body shop where vehicles are repaired and painted; the light-duty garage where police squads, ambulances, and a variety of light-duty cars and trucks are serviced; the heavy-duty garage that sees our diesel equipment, including garbage trucks, snow plows, lawn mowers, and fire engines; the fabrication shop where our welder creates and fixes equipment components; and the parts department that ensures we have the necessary parts on hand to complete repairs. Not only did students learn about the equipment being worked on, but they also saw the variety of careers available in the automotive and fleet industries.

Students on a field trip to Fleet Service
Students on the field trip pose for a picture with a Chevrolet Bolt. Also pictured (far right to left): Tyson Roessler, Fleet Program Manager; Paul Flogel, Madison College Director of Automotive Technology; and Miles Tokheim, Memorial High School Teacher.

The field trip ended with a stop at Zimbrick BMW to learn how a dealership operates and see even more EVs in action up close, including the BMW i3. By the end of the day, students had learned so much about EVs that they were picking out the cars they planned to own one day.

Organizers of the field trip pose for picture
Jim Jenson and Debbie Branson of MGE stand with Tyson Roessler, Fleet Program Manager, and Miles Tokheim, Memorial High School teacher.

The Fleet team was pleased to facilitate the introduction of EVs to this energetic group of future engineering and automotive professionals, while showcasing how the City is making strides in greening our fleet of equipment.  EVs will only become more common in the years to come, so the time for learning the basics is now.  The partners behind this day-long field trip hope to make it a recurring opportunity for Madison students, and plan to offer it to LaFollette High School’s automotive classes next semester.  If all goes according to plan, this EV curriculum could be shared more widely with high school students even beyond Madison.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Fleet Service and a link back to the original post.