Across the entire automotive industry, discussions surrounding electric and hybrid vehicles have gained momentum. Several states have made the decision to halt sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles by the 2030s. Oregon, New York, and California are just a few that have made the step–the latter of which being the home of Earthling Automotive and its EV training program.
Originally specializing in hybrid vehicles under the name Luscious Garage, the San Francisco shop reopened as Earthling Automotive in April 2023 and redirected its focus to include electric vehicles. Not only does the shop aim to fulfill electric drivers’ needs, but it also has a mission to help the industry with its EV training program that launched this past October.
Planting the Seeds
The program is led by Jack Rosebro, who has 20 years of experience working with EVs and hybrids. Canada, Sweden, and Denmark are just a few of the places that Rosebro’s career has taken him as an automotive instructor with an interest in hybrids and EVs.
Before he joined Earthling, Rosebro helped schools across the world develop their own hybrid vehicle programs and taught for Toyota North America. It was while teaching a class in 2005 that he would meet none other than Earthling Automotive CEO Carolyn Coquillette, who at the time was a student of his.
A couple of years later, Coquillette went on to open Luscious Garage. It marked the beginning of a symbiotic relationship between Coquillette and Rosebro.
“I used to go to her shop when she serviced taxis at two in the morning and collect a lot of data there,” Rosebro remembers. “And it was just a synergistic friendship on both a personal and professional level.”
When Coquillette began developing Earthling Automotive, she asked Rosebro to join her team. Still holding a career with Toyota North America that he was enjoying; he initially declined her offer–but Rosebro couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a path to something exciting.
“I started looking at the EV world and was really struck by how all the different manufacturers all had their own solution to the electric vehicles,” Rosebro explains. “This growth time for the industry was going to be very interesting technologically, and I didn't want to miss that. And so, I jumped over, and the rest is history.”
As part of the transition, Earthling Automotive moved to a bigger shop, and the old Luscious Garage is now used by Rosebro to teach several EV and hybrid courses as part of the training program.
There are currently five different classes offered by the program.
Tesla 1 is an introductory course on Tesla vehicles. It addresses certain things that make them different from most other vehicles, such as knowing how to work with a vehicle that you know won’t turn on while working on it.
Then there’s Hybrid/EV 1, an introductory course to hybrid and electric vehicles, and Hybrid/EV 2, for those who have prior experience working with hybrids and EVs.
Take someone who hasn’t changed a battery on a hybrid vehicle before: Hybrid/EV 1 would teach them how. In the second level, students learn beyond simply replacing battery packs and delve into how the system itself works. It builds upon previously acquired knowledge to supply an in-depth understanding of how hybrids and EVs work.
Similar to the Hybrid/EV classes, there is also Electrical 1 and 2, which focus on understanding electric components in vehicles. The topic has been a point of weakness for many technicians throughout Rosebro’s career, and he believes that a firm understanding of electrical work is a crucial foundation for many technicians to potentially build upon.
“Good technicians are hard to find; bad technicians are hard to find, even. But what I'm seeing a lot of people do is, they're focusing more on a grow-your-own philosophy as opposed to a philosophy where you go out and find people,” describes Rosebro. “So, if you want to grow your own, then you need some electrical basis for them to be able to grow further.”
Each course runs for three days, the only exception being the Tesla 1, which is two days.
These shorter classes are less likely to make students feel overloaded with information. In courses that run over three days, Rosebro has seen students lose the same momentum they had going into the class. They need time to digest all the information that they’ve learned.
For those starting at any course’s first level, it can provide them with time to solidify the knowledge they’ve gained before going to the next stage. Though there’s currently only one Tesla course, the program is prepared to offer a Tesla 2 course if it grows in demand.
The size of each class is limited to four people; something rarely seen in this field. It was a deliberate move to promote hands-on work that meets every student’s needs. Most classroom tasks involve students looking up information on a procedure and then performing it themselves on a variety of vehicles spanning different makes and models.
Reaping What You Sow
Upon returning to the aftermarket industry from his time at Toyota, Rosebro was surprised to discover the lack of hybrid and EV training on the West Coast, which has posed itself to be the leader in the transition to EVs.
The training program is partly motivated by inspiring others to find an interest in the subject and to help accelerate the adoption of EVs. When first developing Earthling’s EV training program, Coquillette knew that the increased adoption of EVs would bring with it an increased demand for EV technicians that the industry can’t meet unless more are trained.
As it stands now, pursuing EV training is valuable for any technician who is located in an area with a high EV uptake or working with a lot of EV-driving clientele. But many shops are seeing the long learning curve and are working to be ahead of it to maintain their value, as the push for EVs grows.
“We're not worried about anybody, quote unquote, ‘stealing our secrets,’ as if we had any,” says Rosebro. “We want to see more and more shops being very proficient in EVs, even if they compete with us.”