By Dave Ralph
Photos By Freddie Rodriguez
The future of 21st century motor vehicles represented by a Chevrolet Volt hybrid electric car recently made a pit stop at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) Harlingen for close-up inspection by Auto Collision Technology (AUB) students.
Tipotex Chevrolet in Brownsville loaned the vehicle for a day to AUB major Claudia Carr, who’s employed by the car dealership as an estimator and collision consultant.  In the process dozens of AUB majors, the AUB faculty and TSTC Harlingen President Dr. Cesar Maldonado envisioned themselves cruising behind the steering wheel and silently accelerating in the sleek, white Volt without emitting pollutants thanks to electric power.  An average Volt trip is much less expensive at an estimated $1.25 to charge the 300-volt battery compared to putting gasoline into the tank that costs more than $3 per gallon.
TSTC students keep pace with vehicles like the Volt through the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR), an international organization that focuses on training for professional technicians.  AUB Program Chair Jose Vargas said that TSTC also provides the latest textbooks and I-CAR training for faculty.  TSTC is an I-CAR member and regularly serves as a site for I-CAR certification workshops.  The home Web site online for I-CAR is www.i-car.com.
“More of the new technologies to create and refine these new automobiles are emerging daily,” Vargas said.  “Besides environmental benefits and fuel cost savings, the new motor vehicles are designed with stronger, lighter steel to better protect the driver and passengers if there’s impact.”
Dr. Maldonado talked with students as they raised the Volt’s hood and opened the trunk.  The modern components in the Volt are examples of how one technological development drives more progress, Dr. Maldonado said as he sat in the passenger seat and looked at the dashboard displays, push-button start ignition, and modern air-safety bags.  He said the bumpers and front hoods of many modern cars are designed to reduce the severity of injuries a pedestrian might suffer if struck by a vehicle.
“Everything about this vehicle from the rear-view mirrors and headlights to the body as it connects to the taillights and the trunk is aerodynamic to the maximum,” Carr said.
A fully charged battery will power the Volt for about 160 miles depending upon driving conditions.  Tipotex Chevrolet Sales Representative Francisco Ruiz said the company sells portable power stations that supply 240 volts for battery recharges.  A full recharge costs an estimated $1.25 and takes about four to eight hours depending upon the charger capacity.  The Volt’s four-cylinder, 1.4 liter engine can operate for about 220 miles on one tank of gas.  The fuel consumption ranges from an estimated 35 miles per gallon (MPG) in the city to 40 MPG on the highway.
“Our dealership bought a Volt to use for errands, transport clients and pick up parts around town.  We save a lot of gas while showing off our new car,” he said.
Details online about the Chevrolet Volt are at www.tipotexchevrolet.com.  Click the category for new vehicles and then enter the categories for type and model.  The dealership also places updates about its Volt on facebook.
“We thank Tipotex Chevrolet for the educational opportunity the company gave us courtesy of Claudia.  Her hard work toward earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision Technology at the end of spring semester 2012 helped make this possible,” Vargas said.
Carr’s educational and leadership experiences at TSTC were featured in the November/December 2011 edition of the monthly student publication Mustang Magazine.