In many ways, Crescent Heights High School’s auto department reflects a stereotypical shop class — stacked tires one on top of the other, tools throughout the space and lifted vehicles receiving mechanical surgery. 

For decades, students learned how to build and repair vehicles that rely on fossil fuels. But this local school recently took a new approach in the wake of climate change.

In Crescent Heights auto garage lays a vehicle stripped down to almost nothing. At first glance, you might not think much of it. But what seems like nothing is about to turn into something electric.

Students here are among some of the first in the province to work on electric vehicles. 

“I feel like it’s just a good experience, it’s fun to be around those people and it’s good knowledge for later in life just in case,” said Andy Fremstad, a student participating in the conversion project. 

The base of a car in the auto department of Crescent Heights high school that is being converted from a gas to an electric vehicle.  PHOTO BY: Ethan Seaborn

By 2030, 40 per cent of vehicles on the road in Canada could be electric. The goal is to make all vehicles electric by 2050. 

Crescent Heights wants to equip its students with the skills to fix the soon-to-come fleet of green vehicles.

“There is no curriculum specifically for electric cars, which is one of the pieces we want to highlight,” said Tim Kitchen, assistant principal in charge of career and technology at Crescent Heights.

‘Huge potential going forward’

According to the Government of Alberta, 79 per cent of all vehicles registered in Alberta were gasoline-burning engines.

“Alberta is lagging a little bit behind in some of that, but huge potential going forward,” said Kitchen. 

Kitchen recognized that countries have started to set specific targets around the use of electric vehicles — he felt a need to bring that into the classroom so that students could be better equipped for the future.

“I was wondering what that might look like for our students going out to the workplace,” said Kitchen.

Earlier this year, the federal government set a new target to eliminate the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2035. 

“Specifically, with our automotive students [it] was to look at those actual basic skills to safely service and understand what those maintenance pieces would look like for an electric vehicle,” said Kitchen.

Conversions to electric

Using a conversion kit, students will build a fully operational electric vehicle. To Kitchen’s knowledge, no other school in Calgary is doing an electric car conversion in their auto department.

Due to worldwide supply chain issues, it took additional time to get the conversion kit to the school.

“That’s sort of been the biggest hurdle so far,” said Cody Price, an automotives teacher at the school.

But even without the conversion kit, students remain optimistic.

According to Price, this opportunity will give students a look at what is  to come.

“We’re lucky to have the opportunity to actually do an electric version here to provide students with the insight and knowledge of electric vehicles and kind of what’s coming in the future for electric cars,” said Price.

In addition to the electric car conversion, the school wants to install two electric charging stations on their campus as part of the project.

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