CU-ICAR Investing in Powertrain Research

April 22, 2013

By Scott Miller, GSA Business, April 10, 2013


The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research is investing more than $2 million in new equipment to develop a greater niche in powertrain research, said Suzanne Dickerson, director of international business development.

“And move ICAR beyond manufacturing and into product development,” she said.

Fred Cartwright, a longtime GM executive, took over as executive director of CU-ICAR April 1. (Photo/Scott Miller)

Dickerson, Clemson University President Jim Barker and other CU-ICAR executives traveled to Munich in March to court BMW as a partner in the new powertrain work, as well as to gauge the automaker’s interest in expanding its existing research relationships with CU-ICAR. The meeting included a visit with BMW’s global production head Frank-Peter Arndt and other members of BMW’s international production network. BMW has been a significant CU-ICAR supporter in various ways since the research park’s founding 10 years ago.

“We’re looking at how to add value to BMW’s production facilities outside of Spartanburg,” Dickerson said.

Specifics on CU-ICAR’s powertrain-related investments were unavailable.

“We’re going to invest that money and then go talk about what we can do,” Dickerson said of efforts to attract more private partners.

CU-ICAR is looking to boost its presence globally under new executive director Fred Cartwright, a longtime GM executive who built numerous partnerships to foster technology development. He helped facilitate partnerships between GM, BMW and Chrysler, for example, to advance hybrid-electric technology that led to GM’s first hybrid vehicle. Cartwright began with CU-ICAR April 1.

The research park also is looking to boost its work in technology development. Cartwright’s career with GM began 33 years conducting powertrain research and has done extensive work on hybrid technologies.

“There’s always going to be a need for more fuel-efficient vehicles,” Cartwright said of needs in automotive research.

Automakers want more natural gas-powered vehicles and need support developing storage tanks, low-cost materials and infrastructure, he said.

“You have to work on the right things that transportation companies want,” Cartwright said. “We need to focus on the broad spectrum of transportation.”

CU-ICAR also must adapt to consumers’ changing travel needs and modes of transportation, he said.

“The cars we know today may be obsolete in 20 years. Most of the population of the world by the year 2030 will be living in a megacity. How are people going to get around? Our focus needs to be on urban mobility,” Cartwright said

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