Surrey, British Columbia – Five university and industry partnerships across Canada will benefit from more than $16 million in funding to help develop new automotive technologies. The projects include battery pack thermal management for hybrid vehicles, more efficient wheel production, performance-enhancing catalytic converters and improved manufacturing workplace design and ergonomics. 

The funding includes $6.5 million through the Automotive Partnership Canada initiative, and close to $10 million from industry and other contributions. The partnerships include two Simon Fraser University teams with Future Vehicle Technologies and Ballard Power Systems; the University of British Columbia with Canadian Autoparts Toyota; the University of Alberta with Vida Holdings; and McMaster University with the United States Council for Automotive Research. These partnerships will be supported with funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Announced by the federal government in April 2009, Automotive Partnership Canada is a five-year, $145 million initiative that supports collaborative research and development, and pushes the Canadian automotive industry to greater levels of innovation. Previously-funded projects focused on the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, the development of natural gas and diesel engine technologies, and the creation of on-board storage and reuse of waste thermal energy. To be supported, a research project must intend to improve the automobile’s environmental performance and impact, or focus on the cognitive car and/or next-generation manufacturing.

The five projects are:

Simon Fraser University and Future Vehicle Technologies: Integrated, intelligent energy management systems for hybrid electric vehicles – $798,906. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop efficient thermal management systems to reduce the cost and weight, and ensure long-term, problem-free operation while increasing the efficiency of hybrids.

Simon Fraser University and Ballard Power Systems: Development of next-generation heavy-duty bus fuel cells with enhanced durability – $4,051,075. The project will focus on developing and enhancing the proton exchange membrane in the fuel cell, which is currently a bottleneck for the overall durability and lifetime of a fuel cell stack and hybrid electric drive in transit buses. The goal is to develop improved stack technology capable of increasing durability without affecting functionality and cost.

University of British Columbia and Canadian Autoparts Toyota: Next-generation, water-cooled, low-pressure die for the production of wheels – $726,859. The project is intended to develop an advanced die that will include water-cooling elements at key locations to rapidly cool the wheel to eliminate void formation. The design, placement and operation of the cooling elements must be developed to allow for production yield ratios and operating costs comparable with conventional air-cooled die technology.

University of Alberta and Vida Holdings: Development of a multi-chamber catalytic converter – $180,629. Catalytic converters do not perform optimally at low temperatures, but for many auto trips, the majority of emissions are emitted during the “cold start” period when the converter is below its optimal temperature. The project will explore the multi-chamber catalytic converter, a relatively simple modification to the current design in which thin layers of insulating material are added to the ceramic honeycomb, reducing the time necessary to reach optimal temperature.

McMaster University and the United States Council for Automotive Research: Improving automotive manufacturing design and ergonomics through work simulation and digital human modelling – $798,625. The project will use a digital human model within virtual environments to allow for ergonomic assessments before the tasks exist in reality. Previously, workers would have to get hurt before problems could be determined and ergonomic changes could be made to the task. The project intends to contribute to a reduction in workplace musculoskeletal disorders and an improvement in the efficiency of the automotive manufacturing design and launch cycle. The partnership with the U.S. Council includes significant industrial input from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

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