A state-of-the-art automotive research and testing facility officially opened today at the University of Waterloo, setting the stage for technological advances that will benefit both consumers and the environment.

The $10-million Green and Intelligent Automotive (GAIA) Research Facility is the result of a partnership between the University, industry leaders and two levels of government.  GAIA houses the latest high-tech automotive equipment, spread across three labs and covers 4,000 square feet.

“Now is an exciting time for Canada’s automotive industry as it shifts toward the smart electric vehicle,” said Gilles Patry, president and CEO of Canada Foundation for Innovation. “This world-class research space will make Canada a leader in the evolution of the connected car and will help produce a new generation of automotive engineers.”

A key design of the GAIA Research Facility allows integration of three cells – batteries, powertrains and a rolling dynamometer that simulates real-world driving.  This integration enables a safe and reliable way to test individual components and entire vehicles under one roof.

“Efforts at this unique new facility will enable execution of technology innovations to develop smarter, cleaner vehicles, driving us all towards a more sustainable future,” said Pearl Sullivan, dean of Waterloo Engineering. “Our top researchers from different disciplines are now perfectly positioned to lead the way.

The facility will be open to a team of 150 faculty and graduate students who will test, modify and identify problems with electric and hybrid vehicles.  The focus of their work will be to make it to a test track, saving time and money in the process.

“The fact that we can do all of this in one facility is incredibly powerful and very unique,” said Professor John McPhee, of the Department of Systems Design Engineering and head of the facility. “By the time we graduate our products from GAIA, we’ll be doing very minor tweaks to systems that are near production-quality.”

Several years in the making, GAIA is the latest infrastructure addition to the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR), the largest university-based automotive research centre in Canada.

“The opening of the GAIA Research Facility will advance mechanical, electrical, thermal, and wireless behavior research and innovation,” said Daiene Vernile, MPP for Kitchener-Centre. “Our government is proud to support research that seeks to solve the problems of tomorrow and inspire future generations of students.”

Research areas include longer-lasting batteries to extend the range of electric vehicles, methods to feed excess energy from vehicles back into the public power grid, emissions, wheel force measurements and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as adaptive cruise controllers that maintain safe distances between vehicles while also optimizing fuel consumption.

Support for the GAIA Research Facility comes from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, the University of Waterloo, and equipment suppliers.

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