A donated, first generation Toyota Prius hybrid has been transformed into an invaluable teaching tool with the help of University of Hawaiʻi Maui College automotive technology students. After the car was donated during the holiday recess, program coordinator Lawrence Martinson and two student assistants went to work.
“We were able to pull the engine and transmission out of the car, clean it and cut away the case to create what’s called a cutaway model,” said Martinson. “A Prius, of course, is a hybrid and it’s much easier to teach how the electric motors drive the vehicle in conjunction with the gas engine when you can see the internal components without the casing.”
Cutaway models typically sell for about $30,000. Beyond the cost savings, the experience of pulling out the engine and transmission, cleaning everything, cutting it and rebuilding to create the model was “very cool because it’s an example of our students applying their learning now to also benefit future students,” said Martinson.
The students are enthusiastic about the project, the future of automotive technology and their place in it.
“I believe that hybrid and electric vehicles will become an average thing within the automotive industry. Hybrid vehicles are becoming more common, they already make turbocharged hybrid motors,” said student Jordan Rodrigues. “I believe within the near future they will design a hybrid diesel motor. Also the technology in inverters and batteries will advance and last longer, proving more efficient.”
Aukai Vista, another student, said, “This was a fun project to work on. I think hybrid vehicles will become more popular in the future. And with the amount of new technology coming out, there will be also more self-driving cars available.”
This semester, the class is also working on a cutaway model of a Honda CVT (continuously variable transmission).
“Up until this point, we’ve been teaching with virtual aids,” said Martinson. “Having models makes all the difference.”