Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Utah State to lead NSF-funded engineering research center for electrified transportation


By David Schwartz
Published: August 11th, 2020

Utah State University (USU) has been awarded a five-year, $26-million grant, with a potential renewal to 10-years and $50.6 million, by the National Science Foundation to develop an international research center dedicated to advancing sustainable, electrified transportation.

The center is expected to raise more than $200 million over the next decade in government and industry support. The grant establishes an Engineering Research Center focused on developing new infrastructure that facilitates widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The center is named ASPIRE — Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification.

“ASPIRE represents the very best of what a research university brings to the state and community,” said USU President Noelle E. Cockett. “The center will provide unprecedented opportunities for students and further Utah State’s ability to cultivate a diverse and innovative workforce ready to address complex challenges such as air quality and sustainability.”

Electric vehicles will play an important role in transforming the future of transportation, yet challenges remain to achieve sustainable and widespread adoption. A key factor will be development of charging technology that is built into roadways and parking facilities. ASPIRE researchers are developing holistic solutions that eliminate range and charging as obstacles to the broader electrification of all vehicles, including passenger cars and long-haul, heavy-duty trucks.

“Now is the time to move past century-old mindsets and rethink how roadways and electric grid infrastructure can be co-designed to support low-cost, sustainable solutions for vehicle electrification and decarbonization of the electric grid,” said USU Professor and ASPIRE Center Director Regan Zane.

In 2015, Zane launched the multi-institutional, industry-sponsored Center for Sustainable Electrified Transportation, known as SELECT. That same year, USU unveiled the world’s first electrified test track equipped with power transfer coils embedded in the roadway, which enable properly equipped electric vehicles to charge while in motion. Wireless charging reduces the need for heavy battery packs and numerous charging stations.

ASPIRE builds on the success of the SELECT center, which had a major impact on winning the award.

“Our mission is to improve health and quality of life by catalyzing sustainable and equitable electrification across the transportation industry,” said Zane. “We have organized a phenomenal team with proven dedication to students, community and engagement, and we intend to have a lasting positive impact on the state of Utah, our partner states and the nation.”

ASPIRE will be headquartered at USU and operated through strategic partnerships with Purdue University, University of Colorado Boulder, The University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Auckland New Zealand. Additional partners include researchers at Colorado State University, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Virginia Tech and Cornell University and four national laboratories. Global industry partnerships include more than 45 companies and organizations across the transportation and electric utility industries.

Designated as an Engineering Research Center, the National Science Foundation’s flagship program for innovation partnerships, ASPIRE is one of four new centers announced Aug 4, each of which received the $26 million commitment over five years. The other new ERCs are focused on:

  • Preserving biological systems, including cells, tissues, organs, and whole organisms. This center will be led by the University of Minnesota in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital; University of California-Berkeley; and University of California-Riverside.
  • New technologies to build the capacity of the quantum internet, led by the University of Arizona with partners Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale University.
  • Advancing precision agriculture by promoting food, energy, and water security and minimizing resource use and environmental impacts of agricultural practices, led by the University of Pennsylvania and partnered with Purdue University; University of California-Merced, and the University of Florida.

Sources: Mass Transit and IBL News

Best Practices in Gaining SBIR/STTR Funding for University Technologies is a detailed distance learning collection that will help ensure your SBIR/STTR grant applications stand apart from the herd. Click here for details.

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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