CU-ICAR’s research portfolio is driven, as
is our philosophy, by industry needs.

We continuously analyze the market and survey industry partners, industry leaders and automotive companies to determine their technology and R&D focus. Based on that knowledge, today the research clusters and “technology identity” of CU-ICAR are centered in the following seven areas: Advanced Powertrain, Vehicular Electronics, Manufacturing & Materials, Vehicle-to-Vehicle Infrastructure, Human Factors/HMI, System Integration.

% 82

Of Research Sponsored

by automotive companies in FY 2014

$ 6

Million in awards received

In the form of research and sponsored programs awards


TOtal Projects

Research Spotlight

Advanced Materials Research

The constant pressure to meet demands and regulations for fuel economy is transforming the materials and production methods used in today’s vehicles. Lightweighting is crucial to the cost-sensitive automotive sector and extends beyond to performance-based aerospace and military sectors. CU-ICAR is playing an important role in this critical area through its focus on Advanced Materials Research.

There is no lack of materials with strong lightweighting potentials; aluminium, magnesium and titanium alloys, as well as several classes of fiber reinforced composites. However, these materials share two major drawbacks that prevent their use on a large scale: high material cost and technical manufacturing difficulties that stem from the fundamental material behavior.

Advanced Materials Research

At CU-ICAR, our approach is to address the latter in a way that alters the former.

The advanced materials research activities tackles the technical problems in an integrated approach that starts with (i) fundamental characterization and understanding of material behavior, then (ii) altering material behavior through advanced processing to produce favorable properties, and ultimately (iii) developing energy-efficient cost-effective manufacturing techniques that would tip the balance towards greater utilization of these lightweight materials.

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Advanced Powertrain Laboratory

In 2014, CU-ICAR has expanded our research capabilities to include a broader scope of propulsion systems testing. The Advanced Powertrain Laboratory is located on the first floor of the Carroll A Campbell Graduate Engineering Center and is led by Timken Endowed Chair in Vehicle System Design, Dr. Zoran Filipi. This new infrastructure provides unique flexibility for combining in-depth research and powertrain system integration. In addition to experiments with fully instrumented IC engines, batteries, supercapacitors and electric motors, APT will ultimately enable integration of the real hardware and virtual components to create an emulated vehicle environment.

Advanced Powertrain Laboratory

Application of advanced diagnostics will allow unique insights under realistic operating conditions and ultimately create a new paradigm for powertrain system design and optimization.

The new facility features two state-of-the-art powertrain test-cells, a smaller reconfigurable space in the middle and the new infrastructure behind CGEC, including the power transformer, HVAC system, intake air and exhaust systems, and a new fuel farm. A natural gas system will enable combustion research in the test-cell, as well as an outside dispenser for refueling of prototype vehicles.

$1 Million SEMA Grant Funds Research at CU-ICAR

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The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) expanded its five-year relationship with CU-ICAR by awarding the Department of Automotive Engineering with a $1 million research grant.

These funds ensure vehicle dynamics and emissions compliance while developing high-quality aftermarket performance products.

As part of the two-year grant, CU-ICAR will develop a Transient Emissions and Fuel Economy Laboratory and

a Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory to provide physical testing, engineering resources and research support for performance product development, testing, analysis and integration.

The grant will help speed to market performance aftermarket components for SEMA members that design, engineer and produce emissions-regulated and vehicle dynamics products.

The research also will provide SEMA members with detailed insight and guidance related to the latest powertrain and suspension technologies.

Component Testing Laboratory (CTL)

Opened in 2012, the CU-ICAR Component Testing Laboratory (CTL) offers commercial component testing to the automotive industry. In its short history, the laboratory has proved to be a valuable resource for Tier 1 BMW Suppliers. The CTL is one example of CU-ICAR’s commitment to serving the regional automotive ecosystem.

The Component Testing Lab has served as a model for other incubation projects to promote business locally and globally.  First envisioned to address missing testing services local to the BMW Plant Spartanburg, since opening the lab has performed over sixty new product validation tests for BMW tier 1 suppliers located in the Upstate.  The initial testing portfolio should certainly grow to meet the testing needs of these same customers and new customers as well.   Additional capacity and capabilities are planned to capitalize on this foundation that has proven valuable to various companies.

To highlight another goal envisioned from starting the Component Testing Lab, four Clemson University graduate students have completed six-month internships in the lab as Test Engineer Trainees.

The focus of their experience is not solely to produce test engineers, but to produce automotive engineers who understand the aspects of test engineering.  These students gain experience in daily lab operations, test procedures, data collection, as well as application of mechanical engineering principles to product development. Our interns capitalize on CU-ICAR’s global enterprise, as many of them call El Salvador, Nepal, and India their home country. They also learn about many of the nuances of automotive engineering careers through interaction with customers who visit the lab for test evaluations and results. All four of these graduate student interns are now employed in the automotive industry.

Accreditation of testing labs is important to customers, and the Component Testing Lab is progressing quickly toward ISO 17025 certification by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation.  All CTL tests are backed by operational procedures, methods, and calibrated testing equipment to ensure the testing specifications are accurately met.


Validation Tests




Industry Partners


Test chamber hours

CTL Testimony

CU-ICAR’s Component Testing Laboratory also offers Optical Measurement, Gap Measurement, Adhesion Testing, Color Measurement, Materials Testing, Fracture Analysis and Microstructural Examination and duplication of OEM Final Assembly Processes. image description
CU-ICAR's Component Testing Lab has given us a great advantage in time and cost savings.  Being able to test our interior components close to our manufacturing facilities is very valuable to Faurecia.  The team at the CU-ICAR CTL Lab have been very good to work with – professional and flexible. image description
Performing the shaker test locally in South Carolina at CU- ICAR allowed our engineering teams to speed-up the analysis process and reduce the lead-time to implement the required optimizations. Your team is very professional and its flexibility was well appreciated image description