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A new program at SMCC will teach students how to work on electric vehicles

Electric Cars
Elaine Thompson
FILE -In this Oct. 16, 2010 file photo, employees and guests look over a new Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new car dealership in Seattle. The first mass-market electric cars go on sale in December, and the nation's electric utilities couldn't be more thrilled -- or worried.

A new community college program will train mechanics to service electric and hybrid vehicles.

Ruth Morrison, the automotive technology program chair at Southern Maine Community College, says few mechanics have learned the intricacies of the new vehicles. She says most components in internal combustion cars run off of direct current — or DC — but that's not the case for electric vehicles.

"What you have with electric propulsion is AC voltage. And automotive technicians are not trained in that. And it's a whole different ballgame," she says.

The new program will train mechanics through a weeklong in-person course and 32 hours of online classes. The South Portland-based college is bringing in a teacher from another state for the first training this month, but expects to have in-house instructors trained by next summer.