Tina Suntres and Lana DrouillardUWindsor innovation administration co-ordinator Tina Suntres and Lana Drouillard, director of marketing and communications for the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation were among those representing the city during media previews of the North American International Auto Show.

Auto show exhibits put UWindsor on world stage

Upstairs at the North American International Auto Show is this year’s array of new cars being unveiled by automakers, but the lower level was where the wizardry behind them begins.

Researchers from UWindsor’s Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy — CHARGE, for short — was among the exhibitors on the lower level of Cobo Center, displaying a prototype of an electric motor created in collaboration with Ford Motor Company of Canada.

CHARGE Labs researchers also brought along a controller that runs an electric motor, and information on the independent, third-party testing they can provide manufacturers developing their own electric vehicles.

“We are here to showcase the contributions we are making as a university with this lab,” said Narayan Kar, director of CHARGE Labs and a professor with expertise in electrified transportation systems. “We are creating knowledge and experts for the future…. That’s what we’d like to demonstrate to the outside world.”

The CHARGE Labs’ exhibit space was sponsored by auto parts giant Magna International, one of the industry funders of Dr. Kar’s research. With other industry and government funders — electric motor supplier Borg Warner, D & V Electronics which makes testers for electric motors, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the province’s Ontario Centres of Excellence, and internal UWindsor grants — Kar’s CHARGE Labs employs more than two dozen post-doctoral fellows, PhD candidates, master’s students, and undergrads.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me,” said CHARGE Labs R&D manager Eshaan Ghosh, an electrical engineer who completed his PhD at the University of Windsor.

“This is not an area where a lot of universities are doing research,” Dr. Ghosh said, calling it a privilege to work on extending the frontiers of electric vehicle technologies.

“This is the future.”

The University of Windsor has had another presence at the autoshow, collaborating with the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, St. Clair College, and the WEtech Alliance on a shared booth.

“We want to promote Windsor-Essex as a region that’s advancing mobility and technology, and promote the innovative research going on in the community,” said Tina Suntres, who works in UWindsor’s Office of Research and Innovation Services.

The University of Windsor is part of the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network and has been selected as one of six Regional Technology Development Sites in Ontario. Windsor will be home to a site where manufacturers can test their autonomous vehicles in a virtual-reality environment.

“It will be one of the largest high-fidelity virtual-reality testing in Ontario,” Suntres said.

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens, other members of city council and Essex County warden Gary McNamara spent time at the booth touting the region as “where Canada begins.”

“The Windsor/Essex Detroit relationship provides a unique environment to innovate, attract talent and think globally,” said McNamara.

Said Dilkens: “The strength of our shared history in automotive positions us well for the future and we are excited to share our story with global leaders at the NAIAS.”

The auto show, which features vehicles and technologies that will shape the future automotive landscape, opens to the public Jan. 19 to 27.

The University of Windsor will also have a presence at the Canadian International Autoshow, Feb. 15 to 24, and the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery trade show, May 13 and 14, both at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

—Sarah Sacheli

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