Appalachian professor works with Light Electric Vehicle Association to offer campus classes, training abroad

Jack Martin, senior lecturer in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment at Appalachian State University, has partnered with Dr. Don Gerhardt of Gerhardt Cycles in Winston-Salem to offer a one-of-a-kind experience – an E-Drive Lab -- at the university. The semester-long course provides students with the opportunity to become certified electric bike technicians through the Light Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA).

An electric bike (e-bike) is similar to a standard bicycle in that the rider retains the ability to pedal, but it also includes a motor to help propel riders. By pedaling and motoring, riders can bike more than 25 miles per hour. E-bikes are increasingly popular in areas of difficult terrain, like the High Country, and for riders with physical disabilities.

Students taking the course have the option of entering the annual STEM Cycle Challenge in Raleigh, where they build their own electric vehicle, and will receive LEVA certification levels 1-4, the highest certification offered, upon course completion.

Ryan Gillespie ’17 was Martin’s undergraduate teaching assistant for the first E-Drive Lab offered in spring 2016. He says that hosting this course  -- the only one of its kind on a university campus -- enables Appalachian students to enter the field ahead of their competition.

“The course provides the knowledge and skills for entry into the rapidly expanding and exciting electric vehicle industry — think Tesla — and offers an opportunity students don’t have elsewhere,” he said. “They’ll graduate with a LEV-T certification, which isn’t offered at other four-year schools.”

As e-bikes grow more popular, demand is increasing for skilled technicians. Current LEVA certification trainings are often intense multi-day workshops geared toward working professionals.

As a member of LEVA, Martin has offered these types of trainings locally and abroad, most recently in Ludhiana, India to members of their Research and Development Centre for Bicycle and Sewing Machine (RDCBSM). In February, he spent 10 days there conducting interviews with bicycle manufacturers about their needs, managing instructor training and testing electric vehicles. 

According to Martin, the purpose of his training in India was to help Indian bicycle manufactures find local vendors to use for e-bike parts so they can build and customize their own vehicles. Eventually, he would like to involved Appalachian students.

“If I could take a group of students as part of a study abroad trip so they could see how the e-bikes are made and how we set up the testing apparatus, it would be a great experience,” he shared. “I look forward to developing more advanced training for our students and bike manufacturers everywhere.”

About the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment


One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment at Appalachian State University features an integrated array of programs spanning the fields of sustainable design and technology.  Its mission is to foster a strong and vibrant culture of inquiry, discovery and innovation that integrates theory with application, problem seeking with problem-solving, local issues with global perspectives and technological progress with environmental stewardship. It offers bachelor’s degrees in sustainable technology and building science, and a master’s degree in technology.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors

Jack Martin
Published: Apr 25, 2019 9:23am