I remember the Power Electronics group in the ECE department as being unusually cohesive and cooperative. I think part of their collegiality was that every week they had a Seminar with a talk given by a faculty member, grad student, or guest. Seminar was immediately followed by Symposium, using the Greek origin of the word which meant to get together for the purpose of drinking (look it up!) Symposium took place at a nearby tavern.
It is really a happening environment with developments going on at every possibilities. At University level I am very glad to see this kind of energy at developments, my other professor friends will differs who are mainly focusing towards researches. Every university should be like this college great positivity.
Edison's 1901 electric car battery design is being "reinvented" with nanotechnology as a very competitive power source at Stanford University. Perhaps the combination of historical perspective, hands on experience, and leading edge research can enable scientists at the University of Wisconsin to uncover other innovative power sources.
What's the matter with Mad City winters? It's great fun to ski or skate on that lake. -20 F isn't that cold -- it's not like Northern Wisconsin where you get -30 F and all the vehicles are "plug-in" whether they're hybrid or not :-)
It looks like a great setup for learning and the hands on experience will be beneficial for getting jobs out of school. On the whole I think this is a great approach with external funding and big company involvement.