Industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation, whose automotive business makes superchargers and many other parts, also supplies electric-car charging stations.

Under a recent Federal contract, Eaton will provide those charging stations to various Federal locations--and the company is also working to train new installers for those stations.

Among the future installers will be qualified U.S. military veterans.

Eaton is working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (and the Community College of Baltimore County) to create the pilot "VetCars" program, which will instruct veterans how to install and service infrastructure for plug-in vehicles.

Veterans who complete the program can also earn a certificate showing that they are qualified to maintain the advanced batteries used in plug-in vehicles.

Employment opportunities for returning veterans have been a challenge over the last few years, as the tough economy has made jobs at all levels more scarce.

The intention, Eaton says, is to "provide returning veterans with jobs in communities across the country.”

The charging station contract is between the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and Autoflex, which will install Eaton's stations as part of the Electric Vehicle Pilot Program. That program is now expanding beyond its five original test cities: Washington, D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Eaton technologies test day, Marshall, Michigan, Sept 2010

Eaton technologies test day, Marshall, Michigan, Sept 2010

More than 60 charging stations have already appeared at various Federal agencies and departments, with more on the way. The goal is to see how and when plug-in electric drivers take advantage of at-work charging in the near term.

Range-extended electric cars like the Chevy Volt and pure battery electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf went on sale in December 2010, joined by plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid just a few months ago. There will be more than 40,000 of them on U.S. roads by the end of this year.

Electric cars may also be popular with veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as those soldiers have experienced first-hand the costs of maintaining U.S. energy supplies and the associated geopolitical impacts.

The more vets who get connected to plug-in cars--which can be fueled from a variety of electricity sources, including domestic natural gas and renewable sources--the more effective a voice they may become.

Those veterans range from Iraq vet Tim Goodrich, who talks about the oil he doesn't use driving his Nissan Leaf, to U.S. Marine and former GM product czar 80-year-old Bob Lutz, who has energetically dispatched right-wing criticisms of electric cars in his Forbes blog.


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