When Jim Kane entered his first job at Chrysler after participating in the all four years of the FutureCar competition, he felt more than prepared. His positions on the University of Michigan’s FutureCar team – controls engineer and technical manager – taught him skills he couldn’t learn in any classroom.
“I’ve always loved working on vehicles, and the opportunity presented itself to develop a hybrid electric vehicle,” he said. “It was different from Solar Car and Formula SAE in that it had real potential to get into production in the near future. This was interesting to me. The systems we worked on, the software we wrote, the team we developed – they all helped to expand my expertise in the technologies we were working on.”
After graduation, Jim worked on the HVAC system for one of Chrysler’s battery electric minivans. He said the only reason he got the job was because of his experience with FutureCar.
Jim moved on to Chrysler’s Liberty and Technical Affairs group, working on electric Neons and fuel cell vehicles. He helped develop the first through-the-road hybrid technology on the Dodge Durango, and worked to get it to production. From there, he was involved in a number of hybrid electronic vehicles. “Almost every vehicle Chrysler produced was turned into an HEV, and I had a major part in the system architecture and control design,” he said.
A series of career moves eventually landed Jim at Magna, a current EcoCAR 2 competition-level sponsor, where he currently serves as director of the Energy Systems Business Line.
Looking back on his days as part of the University of Michigan’s FutureCar team, Jim’s most memorable experience involved his team’s brake-by-wire system. It was so complicated that they struggled to make it work at the competition – but the defeat only motivated his team. They reworked the system and software to come back and take the lead on average and peak acceleration.
“We were implementing technologies that are finally making their way to production now,” he said. “It was an unbelievable learning experience.”