Spotlight: Automotive Careers – Hybrid Calibration Engineer

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Hybrid cars are being integrated into the mainstream of the automotive world at a rapid pace. What used to be a relatively new and shaky technology has become an essential part of the industry, becoming increasingly popular with every day. Hybrids now account for about 3-4% of the automotive market and, while that may seem small, it means that they have been growing in popularity almost exponentially since their inception. Not only that, but that number is expected to triple in the next five years.

What this means for automotive careers is that there are expected to be an increase in jobs in the hybrid car sector. One of the most important careers in that sector is that of a calibration engineer, without whom, the world of automobiles would be a dark, messy place.

What Is a Calibration Engineer?

A calibration engineer’s job is to create and tune the digital algorithms that control the engine and transmission. These complex algorithms are what ensure that all of the essential systems in your vehicle are able to communicate with each other as quickly and efficiently as possible. A calibration engineer must undergo extensive training as an auto mechanic before being comfortable enough to get down to the minute level of the engine and powertrain and get familiar with what makes it tick.

Tasks That a Calibration Engineer is Responsible For

  • Diagnosing deficiencies in the vehicle, system and control
  • Using tools to develop and verify calibrations
  • Using modeling and simulation in calibration development
  • Development, usage and updating of procedures for calibration
  • Developing and optimizing calibrations to meet targets of performance and timing

Calibration is all about maintaining a balance between efficiency and power. Calibration engineers must ensure that environmental standards are met with regards to tailpipe and evaporative emissions, but must also attempt to balance these goals with increasing performance and reducing noise, vibration and harshness of the engine. On a regular, fuel-only vehicle, this can be a tough task, but on a hybrid the challenge is monumental.

Why are Hybrids That Much More Difficult?

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Because a hybrid vehicle’s engine is just that, a hybrid of a regular combustion engine and an electric motor, the mechanical complexity is increased exponentially. Because of the possibility to switch from gas to electric, the calibration engineer has to ensure that the driver doesn’t notice the shift in engine power. It should never be obvious that there are two power supplies driving the car – everything should feel smooth – a notoriously tough feat first cracked by Ford with their Fusion hybrid. The problem is that complexity means a challenge, and getting the balance of everything just right in a hybrid is incredibly difficult. A tiny performance tweak in one area could be a giant detriment to another, and the balance is incredibly delicate.

Career Options

Because hybrids are only going to continue to increase in popularity, so will the demand for becoming a talented automotive technician who can calibrate them and ensure the most efficient, powerful vehicles on the market. While it may be a lot of work, and require a fair bit of training, the rewards from making a hybrid engine purr just right are unmatched.

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