Thursday, July 19, 2012

Green Jobs Series: Careers in Electric Vehicles

Workers from a variety of educational and employment backgrounds are employed in the electric vehicle industry, such as the scientists who conduct research in electric drive technology, the manufacturing workers who build the vehicles, and the automotive maintenance technicians who repair the vehicles. This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series describes some of the most common jobs in scientific research.

Occupations in Scientific Research

Scientists in this industry search for new knowledge and conduct research to improve electric vehicle technology. Both chemists and materials scientists conduct research on improving battery life and recharging time. Materials scientists also research and develop new materials for use in electric vehicles.

Scientists usually work in offices and laboratories. Research and development (R&D) scientists work in offices, where they do research, and they plan, record, and report on their lab research. Some laboratories are small, and others are large enough to incorporate prototype chemical manufacturing facilities and advanced testing equipment. Scientists often work with engineers and processing specialists in industrial manufacturing facilities.

Job Duties

Chemists investigate the properties, composition, and structure of matter, and the laws that govern the reactions of substances to each other. Using this knowledge, chemists working on electric vehicles find new chemicals to use in batteries or ways to make existing batteries work better. They work closely with engineers and other scientists to develop new batteries and other technologies.

Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of various materials to develop new products or enhance existing ones. For electric vehicles, materials scientists are heavily involved in battery research, but also develop materials for other parts of the vehicle. For example, some electric vehicles have interior components, such as seats and upholstery, made out of plant-based and recycled materials that were developed by materials scientists.

Education and Training

A doctoral degree is a necessity for scientists who conduct original research and develop new products. However, other scientific workers may find jobs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Computer skills are essential for scientists to perform data analysis, integration, modeling, and testing. Certification or licensure is not necessary for most of these scientists.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have wage data specific to the electric vehicle industry. The table shows wages for selected scientist occupations for May 2010. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Chemists $68,320
Materials scientists $84,720

For more detailed information on scientific research occupations the electric vehicle industry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next Wednesday's electric vehicle industry series installment: Occupations in Design and Development

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