Students restore and transform two electric vehicles

Alfred State Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology Department students hosted an open house last week to unveil two electric maintenance vehicles that they restored and enhanced with sophisticated performance monitoring features. One vehicle is a 2008 Miles Electric delivery-style pick-up truck and the second is a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit converted to all electric power by a previous class in 2010. These zero emission vehicles are now being used on campus by facilities employees.

“I give this experience a 10,” said student Mat Stezel of Rochester.

For the last 12 weeks, Stezel and 34 of his mechanical and electrical engineering technology classmates have been restoring two previously non-functioning electric vehicles into fully functioning vehicles equipped with sophisticated performance monitoring features. “I think we all feel that we had far more interaction with these vehicles than we ever imagined we would.”

This unique restoration project began earlier this year when SUNY Oswego posted the availability of the Miles truck thanks to a SUNY mandate that requires schools to advertise the availability of non-functioning equipment at no cost to other schools using an internal post.

“When I saw the vehicle was available, I thought ‘what better place to restore it than Alfred State!” said Dr. Matt Lawrence, associate professor, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology. “Project-based learning and sustainability is who we are. Restoring two electric vehicles was not only going to be a terrific challenge for seventh semester seniors but also a great tool for reducing campus emissions.”

The Miles vehicle, which cost $19,000 to purchase in 2008, was restored by the students for roughly $2,600, a cost Alfred State’s Facilities Services assumed to help the students and also to procure the vehicles for their fleet. Today, the vehicle is being used daily by Alfred State Facilities Services personnel to make some of their many daily maintenance trips around campus.

“This vehicle can travel at least 17 times around the campus loop on a single charge and do the same job a gas guzzling pick-up truck would do,” added Lawrence, who credits campus Facilities Services Director Glenn Brubaker for his support of the project. “I am just so impressed with the quality and performance of these vehicles,” added Brubaker. “I’m convinced that vehicles like this will be considered as our fleet ages and needs to be replaced.”

The Volkswagen, which had been in service since 2010, needed regular maintenance performed including a new battery pack and some improvements to the charge system. This two-seat hatchback is used as a passenger vehicle on campus.

Work on the vehicles took place in two-hour weekly labs but student Patrick Connor of Peekskill, NY, said a lot of the work also took place between classes, in the evening, or whenever students had a spare moment.

“If you had an idea and wanted to try it out, you could come to the energy lab and work on it,” said Connor. “I think that’s why everyone really embraced this project: we had the freedom to think and act and with that comes a level of respect we all felt for the project and for each other’s contribution to it. There’s a real sense of ownership for this project and I think having that is how most work gets done.”

The students worked with David Hunt, associate professor, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology, to outfit both vehicles with the sensors and software to monitor vehicle performance. Using an on-board laptop, the students implemented programs that monitor battery-pack health and power consumption. The program also can be used as a diagnostic tool that provides the user with some drive-by-wire capabilities.

For retired professor of agriculture at Alfred State Rich Hoffman, a sense of ownership is also how innovative ideas originate. In his 25 years as a professor at Alfred State, Hoffman pursued countless project-based learning opportunities and said he returns to campus for events like this to feel the excitement of learning in action. Hoffman was among more than 20 guests who came to campus to see the students unveil the finished vehicles at the open house event.

“Seeing the work these students have done is a celebration of brain power, creativity, ingenuity and innovation,” said Hoffman. “These are the skills and abilities that employers seek and these are the minds and the talents that the world needs. To think that the project has produced two vehicles that Alfred State can use to operate more efficiently! It’s a win-win for everyone – this is good stuff!”

Mechanical and electrical engineering technology students at Alfred State who worked on the restoration of two electric vehicles include: Nick Aliperti of Kings Park; Cody Arliss of Clyde; Jacob Bayus of Alfred Station; Brandon Boyd of Leroy; Ed Cigno of Leroy; Morgan Collins of Jeffersonville; Pat Connor of Peekskill; Mike Enrico of Oceanside; Anthony Farruggia of Floral Park; Jake Girardet of Orchard Park; Tim Guarino of New Windsor; Matt Henry of Newark Valley; John Hensel of Corning; Chris Hojnowski of Attica; Doug Hooper of South Wales; Dan Krajcir of Hornell; John Kuehn of East Rockaway; Andrew Lund of Olean; Jake Maeder of West Falls; Adam Martinelli of Byron; Bruce Nichols of Utica; Dave Parker of Whitesboro; David Patterson of Franklinville; Chad Pettengill of Ischua; Colleen Quinn of Woodbine; Ken Rush of Albion; Mat Stetzel of Rochester; Josh Stranger of Newfield; Hans Walthert of Mexico; and Ethan Willard of Darien Center.

electric vehicle project

Alfred State students involved with refurbishing the electric vehicles include, from left, Morgan Collins, Brandon Boyd, Mat Stetzel, Jacob Bayus, Ed Cigno (seated), associate professor Matt Lawrence (rear), Dave Patterson, and Adam Martinelli.