A workshop to see, touch, and learn about the newest vehicles.
With the help of car dealers in the prefecture, students striving to become mechanics are given an opportunity to see and feel some of the latest cars as they study about cutting edge automotive technology, with the last topic of the series of workshops based on EVs. The previous week was a hands-on experience with Nissan Leaf, and this week was the 3rd time for a Tesla to make an appearance.
Kyonan High Technical College has a 2-year curriculum for automotive mechanics, and 100% of the graduates acquire a national qualification as automotive mechanics. Most students obtain employment at maintenance shops of major dealerships. Kyonan is the only vocational school in Yamanashi prefecture with an automotive mechanic course. The in-house lecture was held in the automotive mechanic course’s practical room, which has the same equipment and tools as a dealership factory.
This year, three Teslas were brought in, and two lecturers led the workshop. Mr. Hisatsugu “Alan” Nakamura is a long time owner who has one of the earlier models and is actively working as an evangelist of both EVs and renewable energy. Mr. Atsushi “Steve” Ikeda runs a translation company focusing on automotive technology. The two gave a presentation to 17 sophomore students, followed by a Q&A session, then conducted the Tesla test ride session. The two are also board members of the Tesla Owners Club Japan (TOCJ) and offer this type of in-house lecture as part of their community service activities.
Alan mainly talked about the global energy problem and Elon Musk’s philosophy and actions to address these issues. Steve covered the technical aspects of EVs including battery technology and degradation using concrete evidence and data published around the world.
The deputy principal of the automotive mechanic course, Mr. Makoto Katsuue, who is also the supervising teacher of the students, says “Through this lecture, I want students to feel that automotive maintenance is in the era of change. By learning about the future, I want them to eliminate unnecessary anxieties.”
Before the lecture started, students were closely examining the Teslas parked in front of the practical room, and when asked about their first impressions, they gave positive responses such as “I’d like to drive one,” “Doesn’t look like a car I know,” and “These wheels are so cool.” Also there were negative comments such as “EVs are enticing, but I’m worried about charging.”
The lecture began, and students were shocked when Alan told them about Elon Musk. “He made a fortune and could have just bought a mansion with a big pool and spent a nice life but decided instead to use his money for the environment, venturing not only into the EV industry but also to batteries, space exploration, and more.”
Then Steve took over and using a timeline chart, started to explain, “after you graduate you will be working as professional mechanics until about 2060-2065 when you retire. Which means during your career, you will see a big shift in the industry from combustion engine cars to electric vehicles.” The students were quietly nodding and listening to the lecture. It was the moment they understood the importance of having a global view on industry trends and being able to anticipate changes in order to navigate their future.
At the end, Alan advised the students to “be attentive to how the world changes.” Steve told them, “when EVs become mainstream, the role of maintenance shops will change, with remote services becoming predominant. This is because in many cases you won’t need to lift up the car. Also, you will need a certain level of computer skills. Materials such as aluminum, resin, and carbon will be used for body panels, requiring you to master tough bodyworking skills too. So I want you all to have an interest in many things and continue studying.”
After the lecture, when asked about the students’ response, Mr. Katsuue said “I’ve always thought automotive maintenance was analogue work, but my students are digital natives. They know how to use iPhones, iPads, and personal computers, so I think they have less resistance to understanding EVs.”
Students then split up into smaller groups and had a test ride session with two Model S and one Model X Tesla. There were comments such as “The acceleration was strong but so quiet,” “I could only hear the tire noise, with no wind noise.” The school principal, Mr. Satoshi Takida was also invited to the test ride session and admitted “it was beyond my expectations.”
One student confessed “I love thinking about concept cars. The other day, I was thinking of a concept car based on an existing domestic car, but Tesla cars are almost like concept cars.” He also mentioned how the pre-facelift Model S grille looks like an Aston Martin. It was surprising to learn that young students knew so much about Aston Martins. As a former teacher myself, I always hoped my students would show interest in many aspects of cars, from historic, international, and contemporary cars, to future mobility in order to deepen their knowledge and skills.
It is hoped that as these students become professional mechanics of engine cars and EVs, they may even study about EV conversion technology in order to both preserve historic cars and thrive in this era of change. To this end, I hope all car lovers can support these students who will become the foundation of the future of the automotive industry.
（English Text by Atsushi Ikeda）