Automotive research receives almost $5 million in new funding

Friday, October 25, 2013

Reducing weight and fuel consumption while ensuring safety in mid-size cars is one of three initiatives led by University of Waterloo researchers that received major government funding today.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced that the Automotive Partnership Canada program will provide $4.9 million in support of three projects being driven by Waterloo Engineering researchers who are part of WatCAR, the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Automotive Research.  

“Waterloo is home to the largest concentration of automotive researchers at any university in Canada,” said Pearl Sullivan, dean of engineering at Waterloo. "The funding announced today will be critical for advancing further our world-class research in the development of lighter, safer, and more fuel-efficient cars. The projects will strengthen the technological competitiveness of our automotive industry.”

The first project, led by Professor Kaan Inal will receive more than $2.6 million over four years to research, design and test undercarriage parts made from aluminum alloys using high-performance computing and industrial modelling technologies. The project will also explore a simplified manufacturing process for these parts with the goal to enable their use within mid-size cars such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Impala and Buick Regal after 2017.

“Even a small weight reduction in a vehicle can have a dramatic impact on fuel consumption,” said Professor Inal. “While structural vehicle components can provide the most impact in reducing the weight of a mid-size vehicle, their design must ensure they retain strength and effectively absorb impact energy in the event of a crash.”

Professor Inal’s project team includes researchers from Waterloo Engineering, McGill University, McMaster University and Université de Sherbrooke, as well as partners General Motors, CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory and Sapa. Sapa is a global company focusing on developing, manufacturing and marketing of lightweight material aluminum.

Professor Michael Worswick received more than $2 million over the next three years to study a new production process to transform aluminum alloy sheet into complex-shaped parts. Working with industry partner Dana Canada, this research will allow parts currently too difficult and costly to manufacture to be produced, updating traditional stamping processes. The new technology will make vehicles lighter and stronger.

NSERC has supported warm-forming research between automotive parts supplier Dana Canada’s Long Manufacturing Division and the University of Waterloo since 2007. The new funding will move the innovative production process from the lab to the plant floor.

“At the end of three years we will have the computer modelling and process worked out to implement this technology in full production. We believe we are the first university in North America doing such work at this scale,” said Professor Worswick.

Professor Kyle Daun was also awarded funding to develop the heat transfer models currently used by Canada’s leading automotive parts supplier, Magna International, in order to optimize designs and refine online control. Professor Daun’s work is expected to result in significant improvements to the efficiency of producing parts as well increase part quality. In the longer term, these heat transfer models will significantly improve productivity and may lead to the development of new heating technologies.

“The end goal of this research into is to develop cars that have superior crash performance with less material,” said Professor Daun. “This saves on manufacturing and material costs, and also produces lighter, and ultimately more fuel-efficient cars.”

Professor Daun’s research team includes Professor Mary Wells from Waterloo Engineering and partnerships with Magna’s Promatek Research Centre and Formet Industries, a division of Magna.

About the University of Waterloo

In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Waterloo, as home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program, embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit


Media Contact:

Pamela Smyth
University of Waterloo


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