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High-Potential Careers in the Fuel Cell Industry

In the entire series on fuel cell and ultracapacitor for EV, you have seen how the fuel cell industry is coming into the limelight. And concepts such as how a fuel cell works, how to create a fuel cell stack, the basics of ultracapacitors, the hybridization of fuel cells, and the software and hardware components involved.

The third installation in the series focuses on the different careers that you can build in this fascinating and innovative industry. We cover various roles, in detail, along with the different responsibilities that are involved in these roles.

Job Roles at the Entry-Level

1. Modeling and Data Analysis Engineer

In this job, you create models on the fuel cell, the vehicle, the powertrain. OEMs get these models for use in their simulation activities. Eventually, for simulation, you need to have a model that is accurate enough to show what a physical system will do. 

The modeling and data analysis engineer analyses the data, and tries to identify the parameters of fuel cell stack and ultracapacitor. The end objective is to create a model of it and supply it to the customers.

2. Packaging Design Role

The packaging design role involves finding the best available packaging for all the components - fuel cell, batteries, ultracapacitor, electric motors, etc. This job role involves knowing a lot of CAD-design and software like CREO and SolidWorks.

3. Simulation Engineer

A simulation engineer is someone who uses the modeling data provided by the modeling engineers. Because it's not possible to test everything in a physical system where you have a fuel cell and a vehicle, you run tests on some parts with simulations. 

The control software is run on the fuel cell model and the vehicle model to check whether the control system is working as required. If it is not working as expected, then the source of deviation has to be found.

4. Function Developer

Many companies provide software where you have to control all the parameters where like hydrogen supply, water management, thermal management, etc. Software such as Asset or MATLAB is required to manage these variables. The job of the function developers is to develop functions in Matlab to control all of those parameters.

5. System Test Engineer

A system test engineer, as the name suggests, will be testing a lot of systems based on requirements. You run on the overall vehicle or standalone fuel cells. Test procedures are standard. After being trained to run tests, your job is to identify what is working and what is not. 

If some things don't work as expected, then there is some problem with the software. So, you have to work with the function developers to solve the problem and improve the system.

6. System Integration Engineer

This role is essential for multiple components in the vehicle. The integration engineer makes sure that all the system is connected and working without misalignment. It is a high-learning role because you get to learn a lot on the overall vehicle level as well as component level.

7. High Voltage System Engineer

You have high voltage components in the vehicle like the battery and fuel cell. So, you have to design systems to make sure that the voltages do not go to extremes. The high voltage system engineer makes sure of the same. This job involves a lot of electrical engineering.

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8. Calibration Engineer

Once the function developers make the software,  you need to do some tuning required. That is the job role of a calibration engineer. The calibration engineer changes the value of parameters to get the best performance and the optimized performance out of the system.

9. System Design Engineer

The system design engineer is not a very common role for entry-level engineers. But it is still possible to become one at the entry-level in some cases. The job of a system design engineer is to create requirements for the function developer. The role demands a strong background and a tremendous knowledge of the specific system. 

For example, if you are working on the fuel cell, you need to understand the fuel cell and the electric power train very well to write requirements. It is possible to get into jobs as a systems engineer, but it is not very common. Usually, it requires some experience.

Job Roles at the Senior-Level

1. Lead System Engineer

As you develop experience as a function developer, you can go on to becoming a lead systems engineer where you design everything.

2. Development Engineer - Fuel Cell

As the name suggests, the job entails working on developing fuel cells. The role is electric and chemical engineering focused. At a fundamental level, you try to develop and improve the performance and chemical reactions.

3. Functional Safety Designer

A functional safety engineer makes sure that all the operations of all the components of the vehicle are happening. These operations are needed to ensure the safety of the driver.

4. Technical Specialist

A technical specialist is someone who knows the field in terms of breadth and depth. Most lead systems engineers and function developers consult with technical specialists. The objective is to use your expertise and provide feedback to make sure things are on the right track.

5. Project Manager

This mid to senior-level management role is akin to a traditional project manager. The job is to ensure that tasks are assigned, and deadlines are met.

6. System Design Manager

Systems test engineers report to systems design manager.

7. Calibration Manager

The calibration manager supervises and works with the team of calibration engineers.

Top Management Roles

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Principal Engineer/Chief Vehicle Engineer and Software and Calibration Department Leader are the top-most roles when it comes to automotive. For example, the Toyota Mirai will have a chief vehicle engineer who is responsible for presenting the entire vehicle. The job role involves high-accountability.

The same accountability goes for Powertrain Department Managers. These people are responsible for delivering the entire software for the powertrain. As a powertrain department leader, you have to make sure that all the components are working, so you are the leader for many job roles.

How to Get Into This Field

Getting into function development using Matlab/Simulink is a common way of entering this field. Function developers are in good demand with Big OEMs like Toyota, Mercedes trying to build in-house software for there powertrain rather than relying on suppliers like Bosch. 

It's also possible to enter this field as test engineers gaining knowledge over time. With a sound technical background in fuel cell and automotive, getting into systems engineering is possible. 

Most of the system engineering happens outside India. However, there have been recent advances. For example, Tata Motors has developed fuel cell with ISRO and a Bengaluru based fuel cell startup Log9 Materials has secured funding of $3.5 million.

In Closing

As you have seen, the number of roles available in the fuel cell industry is quite varied. However, all of them require hard work in terms of learning and direction for building an impressive portfolio of practical projects. 

To know more about fuel cells and ultracapacitors for EV, consider applying for a master's program at Skill-Lync today!


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