Special Report: Dream Jobs 2013

Engineering careers come in all shapes and sizes

2 min read
Simon Hauger sits in the frame of a car his students are in the process of building
Learning by Doing: Simon Hauger inspires high school students at the Sustainability Workshop.
Photo: Bill Cramer/Wonderful Machine

When was the last time you saw an engineer portrayed glamorously in a film—or, for that matter, in any form of popular culture? Right. Let’s face it: The unflattering stereotypes persist, and they’re tired. They’re also out of touch with reality. Just consider the five engineers we profile here.

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Waiting for Superbatteries

They are still a long way from matching the energy density of liquid fuel

3 min read
A man dressed in black is seen from above at the right-hand side of a white table divided into six rectangles, their longer sides running left and right of the man—that is, up and down, from the reader’s point of view. A narrow arm, framed in orange, extends from left to right down the middle of the table, crossing the rectangles; the man is working on the right-hand side of the arm, which contains electrical apparatus.

A Volkswagen employee removes modules from a worn-out EV battery at the company’s recycling operation at a plant in Salzgitter, Germany.

Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance/Getty Images

If grain must be dragged to market on an oxcart, how far can it go before the oxen eat up all the cargo? This, in brief, is the problem faced by any transportation system in which the vehicle must carry its own fuel. The key value is the density of energy, expressed with respect to either mass or volume.

The era of large steam-powered ocean liners began during the latter half of the 19th century, when wood was still the world’s dominant fuel. But no liners fired their boilers with wood: There would have been too little space left for passengers and cargo. Soft wood, such as spruce or pine, packs less than 10 megajoules per liter, whereas bituminous coal has 2.5 times as much energy by volume and at least twice as much by mass. By comparison, gasoline has 34 MJ/L and diesel about 38 MJ/L.

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The EV Transition Explained: Can the Grid Cope?

Palo Alto offers a glimpse at the challenges municipalities and utilities face

8 min read
A man plugging a charger into an outlet

Enel’s JuiceBox 240-volt Level 2 charger for electric vehicles.

Enel X Way USA

There have been vigorous debates pro and con in the United States and elsewhere over whether electric grids can support EVs at scale. The answer is a nuanced “perhaps.” It depends on several factors, including the speed of grid-component modernization, the volume of EV sales, where they occur and when, what kinds of EV charging are being done and when, regulator and political decisions, and critically, economics.

The city of Palo Alto, Calif. is a microcosm of many of the issues involved. Palo Alto boasts the highest adoption rate of EVs in the United States: In 2020, one in six of the town’s 25,000 households owned an EV. Of the 52,000 registered vehicles in the city, 4,500 are EVs, and on workdays, commuters drive another 3,000 to 5,000 EVs to enter the city. Residents can access about 1,000 charging ports spread over 277 public charging stations, with another 3,500 or so charging ports located at residences.

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Get the Coursera Campus Skills Report 2022

Download the report to learn which job skills students need to build high-growth careers

1 min read

Get comprehensive insights into higher education skill trends based on data from 3.8M registered learners on Coursera, and learn clear steps you can take to ensure your institution's engineering curriculum is aligned with the needs of the current and future job market. Download the report now!