Lab Canada

Auto research in spotlight with $34M in funding

Waterloo, ON Six new university-industry projects supported by the Automotive Partnership Canada initiative have received a total of $34 million in funding. The projects will support the development of new technologies that will provide lighter material alternatives for cars and significantly enhance battery efficiency for vehicles.

The $34 million in funding includes just under $19 million through the Automotive Partnership Canada initiative and nearly $15 million from industry and other partners. The partnerships will be supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and National Research Council Canada (NRC).

“Canada’s scientists and engineers are well positioned to provide the automotive industry with the expertise needed to maintain a strong and sustainable automotive industry,” said Suzanne Fortier, NSERC president. “These most recently announced projects will contribute to the evolution of new materials and technologies that will benefit both the automotive sector and consumers.”

“Through our investment in state-of-the-art facilities, we are supporting research-driven economic growth and helping to create jobs in Canadian communities,” said Gilles G Patry, president and CEO of the CFI.

Automotive Partnership Canada is a five-year, $145-million, federally supported initiative that supports collaborative R&D and pushes the Canadian automotive industry to greater levels of innovation. As this is an industry-driven initiative, automotive companies provide both financial support and essential in-kind contributions to ensure the research projects’ success.

Other previously funded Automotive Partnership Canada research focused on the development of a battery pack thermal management system for hybrid electric vehicles, more efficient systems for lightweight wheel production, enhanced performance catalytic converters, improved fuel cell technology and improved automotive manufacturing workplace design and ergonomics.

The projects are as follows:

1. Development of a Hybrid Electrohydraulic-Hydromechanical Drawing Process for Production of Lightweight Automotive Parts. Researcher: Daniel Green, University of Windsor. Partners: Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, Amino North America Corporation, Novelis Global Technology Centre, ArcelorMittal Dofasco, CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory (Natural Resources Canada) APC funding: $1,046,800 (through NSERC).

The use of high strength steels and lower density materials (aluminum, magnesium) in automotive body and chassis structures is an excellent way to reduce vehicle weight. However, higher strength and/or lower density materials are inevitably accompanied by a decrease in formability; leading to an increase in cost and a decrease in product design flexibility. One of the most promising forming processes that could help to overcome these limitations is electrohydraulic forming (EHF)—discharging a high voltage current between two electrodes submerged in a fluid and using the pressure wave in the fluid to form a sheet metal blank against a die at very high strain rates. This project aims to prepare EHF technology for medium- to large-scale production of automotive parts in Canada.

2. Development of Novel Titanium-Based Powder Production, Consolidation and Shaping Processes for Low Cost Titanium Automotive Parts Manufacturing. Researcher: Stephen Corbin, Dalhousie University. Partners: Kingston Process Metallurgy, Wescast Industries. APC funding: $2,211,530 (through NSERC)

Titanium and its alloys represent superior light metal alternatives in the pursuit of automobile weight reduction and increased performance. Traditionally, the use of titanium in the automotive industry has been restricted to luxury vehicles, given the high costs of production. This project aims to develop a low cost method of producing titanium parts for automotive applications through the development of new processes. Replacing steel with titanium alternatives can reduce the weight of a vehicle by 50 percent, resulting in benefits for the Canadian consumer and the environment.


3. Long-Lived, High Energy Density and Low Cost Lithium-Ion Batteries for Automotive, Grid Energy and Medical. Researcher: Jeff Dahn, Dalhousie University. Partners: 3M Canada, GM Canada, Magna E-Car Systems, Medtronic Energy and Component Center, Nova Scotia Power. APC Funding: $4,176,005 (through NSERC and CFI).

Lithium-ion batteries for cars must meet more stringent requirements than those for portable electronics. They must last for 10 years, sustain over 3,000 charge discharge cycles and withstand extremes of temperature. Batteries for grid energy storage and medical devices have similar requirements. A major goal of this project is to rapidly identify those cell chemistries and operating ranges that give optimum battery cycle and calendar life. Another goal of this project will be to transfer the knowledge gained through advanced diagnostic methods to partners through scientific and technical exchange.


4. Magnesium Intensive Multi-Material Automotive Structures: Fabrication and Performance. Researcher: Michael Worswick, University of Waterloo. Partners: Cosma International (division of Magna), 3M Canada, Huys Industries, Meridian Lightweight Technologies, CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory (Natural Resources Canada). APC funding: $3,713,044 (NSERC and CFI).

More and more, manufacturers are building automotive parts and structures out of more than one material (composites or multi-materials). This can dramatically reduce weight and improve overall vehicle performance. However, many factors affect the long term reliability of these materials. This project will examine key corrosion, fatigue, and structural parameters, while also implementing the crashworthiness testing infrastructure required to evaluate the corrosion protection and joining technologies associated with a multi-material structure. Advanced numerical (i.e., computer) models for manufacturing and in-service performance will be developed. These will enable efficient computer-aided engineering of future vehicles. The project will position the Canadian automotive sector to manufacture competitive, next generation lightweight structures.


5. Low Platinum PEM Fuel Cells. Researcher: Steven Holdcroft, Simon Fraser University. Partners: Automotive Fuel Cell Corporation, Ballard Power Systems, Hyteon Inc., BIC Inc., GM Canada, Hydrogenics. APC funding: $5,500,000 (through NSERC and NRC).

Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are being developed worldwide as clean energy conversion devices. Promising applications for these fuel cells include materials handling backup power, residential co-generation, fleet vehicles and portable electronics. However, the biggest impact fuel cells could have lies in the commercial automotive sector, which holds great potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. A significant technical barrier to full commercialization is the high amount of platinum required for each fuel cell. This partnership brings together 17 scientists and engineers from nine universities across Canada, who will work on reducing the cost of PEMFCs through the exploration of alternative non-platinum metals and the fabrication of advanced layer structures.


6. In-situ Studies of Electromechanical Processes in Automotive Materials. Researcher: Gillian Goward, McMaster University. Partners: GM Canada, Bruker Ltd., Heka Electronics. APC Investment: $2,346,484 through (NSERC).

This team proposes to identify improvements to lithium batteries by looking inside operating batteries to determine what occurs at various scales including the meso (mid-level), molecular (chemical), and nano (atomic) scales. This will give the researchers a picture of the electrical and chemical state of health of the battery and will help them understand what is impacting on its performance. The goal is to develop innovations that will bring the next generation of automotive batteries to the cars of tomorrow.