Alternative Fuels Vehicle Technician
Alternative Fuels Vehicle Technician
Education and Training: High school plus training
Salary: Median—$38,000 per year
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Alternative fuels vehicles are cars, vans, trucks, and buses that run on fuels other than gasoline or diesel. At present, the two types of alternative fuels vehicles in greatest use are those that run on compressed natural gas (CNG; natural gas under high pressure) and those that run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG; hydro-carbon gases under low pressure; propane).
Federal law mandates that a growing percentage of public vehicle fleets—such as buses maintained by local governments—consist of alternative fuels vehicles, primarily because they are less polluting than traditional gas-powered vehicles. Many states also have enacted laws requiring the use of alternative fuels vehicles. There is a growing need for skilled technicians to convert standard vehicles to either CNG or LPG vehicles and to maintain and repair alternative fuels vehicles.
Alternative fuels vehicle technicians are employed by local and state agencies, independent automotive repair shops, car and truck dealers, public and private fleets, and service stations. They need a basic understanding of standard automotive and truck mechanics. In addition, they must be able to diagnose and repair problems specific to CNG and LPG vehicles. They should also be able to convert existing vehicles to either CNG or LPG using standard conversion kits. Like standard automotive, truck, and bus mechanics, alternative fuels vehicle technicians use computers to diagnose engine problems. They also use a wide variety of tools to repair and maintain vehicles.
A good technician combines solid mechanical skills with a flair for diagnosing and solving problems. Alternative fuels vehicle technicians need good communication skills for speaking with coworkers and customers. They must also be able to read and understand technical information.
Education and Training Requirements
Alternative fuels vehicle technicians need a high school education and training in automotive mechanics, plus additional specialized training in CNG and/or LPG technology. Recommended school classes include mathematics and physics, with course work covering friction, hydraulics, pneumatics, and electronics.
Students interested in CNG and LPG training can look for programs certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and supervised by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). To become certified by the ASE, students must complete an accredited course and pass a written examination. To maintain certification, technicians must take a test every five years.
Getting the Job
ASE certification is highly recommended for workers interested in employment as alternative fuels vehicle technicians. Schools offering ASE-approved courses usually provide job placement services for students. Positions are also advertised in local newspapers. To find out about opportunities for alternative fuels vehicle technicians, inquire at local car dealers, service stations, and government offices in your area.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Currently there are approximately 370,000 ASE-certified alternative fuels vehicle technicians working throughout the automotive industry. As more alternative fuels vehicles come into use, either through government mandate or market decisions, the number of technicians needed to convert and maintain those vehicles is expected to grow. Job opportunities for automotive mechanics in general are expected to be very good for individuals who complete automotive training programs, because employers report difficulty in finding workers with the right skills.
Experienced alternative fuels vehicle technicians may move into supervisory positions as fleet managers, chief mechanics, and shop managers or owners. Technicians may also find teaching opportunities.
Alternative fuels vehicle technicians usually work in modern garages equipped with good ventilation, lights, and adequate climate control. Technicians who maintain fleets may also work outdoors making roadside repairs. Like all automotive technicians, alternative fuels vehicle technicians often work in uncomfortable positions. The job may involve lifting heavy objects and handling greasy parts. Modern garages are, however, usually safe working places.
Technicians generally work a standard forty- to forty-eight-hour workweek. Some technicians, especially those maintaining public fleets, may work night shifts to keep the vehicles on the road.
Where to Go for More Information
National Energy Services Association
6430 FM 1960 West, No. 213
Houston, TX 77069
Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition
1100 Wilson Blvd., No. 850
Arlington, VA 22209-2297
National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation
101 Blue Seal Dr., Ste. 101
Leesburg, VA 20175
Earnings and Benefits
Alternative fuels vehicle technicians can expect earnings and benefits comparable to other automobile and truck mechanics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for automotive mechanics working for either the government or car dealerships was approximately $38,000 in 2004.