Automotive research: environment and sustainability
The automotive industry is rapidly evolving as technology creates new opportunities for manufacturers. With factors such as Government regulations, environmental emissions, safety, as well as new powertrain and fuel technologies, the role of automotive researchers is more important now than ever before. Manufacturers and Government look to private and university/college automotive research departments for insight or new technology to remain competitive and compliant in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
Vehicle emissions have been a concern for nearly as long as automobiles have been around. However, it’s only relatively recently that the concern has reached a point where something is being done about it. In the 1960s, US legislation required the installation of emission-control systems on all motor vehicles, in hopes of reducing the emission of pollutants. A number of Government regulations forced the automotive industry to adapt. Advancements in the engine, fuel, and exhaust systems have reduced emissions from vehicles. For example, the requirement for catalytic converters in the 1970s reduced vehicle emissions, and in the 1980s, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles in the United States was established to develop new technologies that will reduce pollution while improving fuel economy.
However, after half a century of attempting to clean up combustion engines, we’re facing a number of the same emission challenges in the current year. Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States as well as of other industrialized Countries around the world. A report in 2015 showed that 27% of greenhouse gas emissions primarily came from transportation.
This generation may be the one where polluting propulsion technologies are finally surpassed by cleaner ones. Pressure from governments and growing environmental concerns among consumers is forcing manufacturers to provide the market with clean transportation. And, it looks like a one-way trip. Around 84% of Americans feel that automakers should continue “improving fuel economy for all vehicles.”
Modern policy is an opportunity for automotive research institutions
Currently, the automotive industry spends billions on research and development of future projects. Automotive research departments in colleges, universities, as well as private institutions, have evolved to study and contribute new findings and technology to sustainability efforts in the automotive industry. Independent research among automotive research institutions is employed by various automotive manufacturers to evaluate and innovate cleaner vehicles and manufacturing processes. In other cases, research is conducted to study vehicle emissions and effects on behalf of the public good.
Automotive research has contributed to establishing cause to begin a revolution in the auto industry; the transition from fossil fuel engines to electric drivetrains. Over time, this research has led to a swell of support for a change in policy has now taken hold for policymakers in major economies around the world. The United Nations, among others, have outlined goals for sustainable development of which ‘climate action’ has been targeted. Subsequently, countries have outlined specific action plans to combat ‘climate change’, of which vehicle emissions is a primary concern.
The effect of these policies has spurred on the start of what will be the largest change in the use of energy since the industrial revolution. To successfully navigate this transition, our brightest minds of current and future will be assigned to resolve a number of hurdles. Re-enter the automotive research and engineering institutes.
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Automotive research sustainability areas
For these research bodies, the work has just begun. Studies and innovation into overcoming the hurdles on the roadmap to greater efficiency and reduction of emissions include the following areas:
- Advanced powertrains
- Alternative fuels
- Autonomous driving
- Battery research
- Connected vehicles
Currently, a number of University, College and private research institutes around the world are conducting research in the area of emissions and sustainability. These include:
- Advanced propulsion systems, The University of Warwick
- Argonne, National Laboratory
- Automotive testing, Intertek
- Automotive Research and Development Institute, BOSMAL
- Center for Automotive Research, Ohio State University
- Clean energy research, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Climate change and sustainability, TRL
- European Automobile Manufacturers Association
- European Interoperability Centre for Electric Vehicles and Smart Grids
- Green and Sustainable Technologies, University of California Berkeley
- Institute for Transport Studies (ITS), University of Leeds, United Kingdom
- International Center for Automotive Research, Clemson University
- Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre, University of Bath
- Transportation Research Institute, University of Michigan, United States
- Transportation Sustainability Research Center, University of California Berkeley
- Vehicle emissions powertrain testing facility, Millbrook
- Vehicle emissions and energy use, VTT Research
- Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WATCAR)
- Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy, University of Waterloo