GM, U-M team up on auto research
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General Motors and U-M have announced the formation of the GM/U-M Institute of Automotive Research and Education, with a strategic focus on reinventing the automobile and developing the next generation of high-efficiency vehicles powered by diverse energy sources.

The institute, which builds on more than 50 years of collaboration between the organizations, supplements GM's ongoing research and development in key areas: advanced batteries, engine systems, smart materials and vehicle manufacturing.

The institute was announced May 7 by Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman for Global Product Development, and David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering and professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U-M.

"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," Stephens said. "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 that we need to reinvent the automobile."

The institute will be dedicated to 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 important projects and research questions, as well as enable an efficient exchange of technical personnel and knowledge. The projects will supplement ongoing 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," Munson said. "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."

The GM/UM institute's activities include:

• GM/U-M Advanced Battery Coalition for Drivetrains (ABCD): The ABCD is a partnership representing 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.

The ABCD also includes four advanced battery research projects with GM Research and Development (R&D), with support from the U.S. 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: GM and U-M researchers are developing fundamental 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 develop a fundamental understanding of homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), which can improve fuel economy by 15 percent when combined with other advanced technologies. This collaborative lab is pioneering research work to develop a fundamental understanding of combustion chamber deposits, their effects on HCCI combustion as well as opportunities for controlling their growth. This work will be critical to GM's long-term success in ensuring that HCCI meets GM's stringent durability and reliability requirements.

Collaborative research also is conducted in the development and application of high-speed, laser-based imaging diagnostics that reveal crucial details of key engine processes such as in-cylinder flow, fuel-air mixing, ignition, and combustion. Experiments at both U-M and GM use these unique tools to explore new, previously unattainable regimes of cleaner and more efficient engine operation.

• Advanced vehicle manufacturing: GM R&D and U-M are conducting research to advance key manufacturing processes and systems that support vehicle electrification, including lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing processes and systems, and 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 high energy density. The lab also is 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 more than 2,000 U-M graduates, and during the past nine years, has funded nearly 100 U-M research projects.

To further leverage top students and faculty with universities around the world, GM has established a similar institute with Shanghai Jia Tong University in Shanghai, China, and has announced its intent for another institute with Politecnico in Torino, Italy.

This new institute is one of several automotive research hubs at U-M. The U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) conducts interdisciplinary research focused on driving safety and transportation systems. The Automotive Research Center (ARC) is a U.S. Army Center of Excellence that focuses on accurate simulation of military and civilian ground vehicles for better product development.