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New U Michigan-GM Institute Focuses on 'Reinventing the Car'

The University of Michigan (U-M) in Ann Arbor and General Motors have formed the Institute of Automotive Research and Education, with a focus on clean and efficient vehicle technologies that address major societal challenges, including energy diversity, sustainable mobility, and technology innovation. It will link U-M faculty and GM in research and other projects as well as facilitate an exchange of technical personnel and knowledge. The projects will supplement on-going work within GM and will provide U-M faculty and students with research focused on real-world challenges.

"The Institute will provide exceptional research opportunities for U-M faculty members and students in support of the transformation of the automotive industry," said David Munson, dean of engineering and professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "We look forward to our continued collaborative work with GM and a robust focus in the key areas that will support the reinvention of the automobile."

"No single company, university, or government agency can act on its own to address the ever-changing global energy and environmental demands facing the automotive industry," said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman for global product development. "GM is leveraging the finest faculty and students at the University of Michigan and our own talented researchers and engineers to accelerate the pace of innovation and develop the knowledge and technology solutions we need to reinvent the automobile."

Activities at the Institute include:

Advanced Battery Coalition for Drivetrains (ABCD): A partnership of industry, academia, and government dedicated to the electrification of the drivetrain. It includes a new U-M automotive advanced battery lab, which will supplement GM's advanced battery activities and focus on cutting-edge experiments to solve battery life and performance issues. ABCD also includes four advanced battery research projects with GM Research and Development with support from the United States Department of Energy and the state of Michigan. The ABCD is linked to the College of Engineering's Energy Systems Engineering master's degree program, now in its second year.

Engine systems: Researchers are developing knowledge, analytical tools, and experimental techniques to assist GM's initiatives to further improve direct injection engine systems with maximum fuel efficiency and low exhaust emissions. U-M is working with GM to understand homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), which can improve fuel economy by 15 percent when combined with other technologies. This collaborative lab is pioneering research work to develop an understanding of combustion chamber deposits, their effects on HCCI combustion as well as opportunities for controlling their growth.

Advanced vehicle manufacturing: Research to advance key manufacturing processes and systems that support vehicle electrification, including lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing processes and systems, as well as processes for lightweight structures.

Smart materials: Materials that respond to changing conditions or external stimuli--such as shape memory alloys--can replace mechanically operated vehicle components. GM and U-M researchers are exploring these smart materials, which are lightweight, low cost, and possess a high energy density. The lab is also developing design methods and tools to support these technologies, improve their development cycle, and integrate them into marketable automotive products.

The collaborative relationship between GM and U-M spans a half-century and includes many joint patents and research papers. GM employs 2,000 U-M graduates and during the last nine years has funded nearly 100 U-M research projects.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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