While the Big Three are experiencing troubled times, General Motors and the University’s College of Engineering plan to reshape the automotive industry.

Max Collins/Daily

Yesterday, the University and GM announced the creation of a joint Institute of Automotive Research and Education.

GM Vice Chairman Tom Stevens spoke at the event on North Campus to declare the collaboration. He said the goal of the institute is to create the next generation of high efficiency vehicles by utilizing diverse energy sources.

“The institute’s vision will be to develop and deliver world class education with a strategic focus on energy diversity and sustainability to reinvent the automobile,” he said.

The institute will focus on researching advanced batteries, engine systems with maximum fuel efficiency, smart materials that respond to various conditions and improved vehicle manufacturing processes.

Stevens said partnerships like these between the University and GM are “critical,” citing how the partnership will link the University’s faculty and students with GM researchers to work together on challenging automotive issues while facilitating “an efficient exchange of technical knowledge.”

“No single company, no single university and certainly no single government agency can act on its own to successfully address both the growing worldwide demand for energy as well as the ever more stringent environmental requirements,” he said.

David Munson, dean of the College of Engineering, also spoke at the event. He said the institute will play a major role in developing the knowledge needed to transform the automotive industry in Michigan.

“The outcomes of this partnership will be new discoveries and innovative practices to serve our state as well as contribute to the future success of this critical industry,” Munson said.

Munson mentioned the Advanced Battery Coalition for Drivetrains, which was announced in February and represents the latest collaboration between the University and GM.

Through ABCD, which is supported by the United States Department of Energy and the state of Michigan, about 50 GM researchers and 80 University graduate students have been working to extend battery life and solve performance issues.

Dennis Assanis, co-director of the GM/UM Engine Systems Research Collaborative Research Laboratory and an Engineering professor, said that after working with GM for nearly ten years, the institute “is like a dream come true.”

Assanis and a group of graduate students have been studying homogenous charged compression ignition, which results in low exhaust emissions and improved fuel efficiency and can be applied in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

“We truly feel that combined with other technologies the HCCI can give us a 15-percent improvement in fuel economy over today’s (standard) engine,” Assanis said.

Mark Hoffman, an Engineering graduate student, has worked with Assanis the past five years researching HCCI and the formation of combustion chamber deposits.

Hoffman said it’s an exciting time for Engineers in the market because the government is pushing Engineers to develop higher fuel efficiency.

“We now have an opportunity where everyone is coming and asking ‘What can you give us?’” he said.

With the state of the economy, Hoffman added that for engineers, “to be in demand is a big plus.”

Hoffman said if GM offered him a job after graduation, he wouldn’t turn it down.

Currently, GM employs more than 2,000 University graduates and has funded about 100 research projects over the past nine years.

While the University has collaborated with GM for more than 50 years on various projects, Munson said he expects great automotive innovations will spawn from the new institute.

“We look forward to the breakthroughs we expect to achieve in the academic and commercial successes that will result,” he said.

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