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Revving Up Change: Exploring the Future of Automotive Innovation at UA

Written by: Madison O’Brien

To wrap up the fall semester, the University of Alabama EcoCAR team hosted a unique event in partnership with the Alabama Mobility and Power Center (AMP) that brought together faculty members from diverse disciplines within the College of Engineering. From Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering to External Affairs and representatives from the Dean’s office, the gathering provided a space for discussion on interdisciplinary collaboration and exploration.

The event began with a word from the Communications Manager of UA EcoCAR, Madison O’Brien, setting the stage to begin a dialogue about electrification of the automotive industry. The team gave a comprehensive overview of the EcoCAR program, detailing UA’s journey from traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to hybrids and now fully electric vehicles like the Cadillac LYRIQ.

The faculty then delved into the heart of the matter with Dr. Jaber Abu-Qahouq’s speech on Battery Management Systems. Dr. Abu-Qahouq is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Alabama, the Director of The Energy and Power Electronics Systems and Devices Laboratory, the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of the Alabama Mobility and Power (AMP) Center, and a member of The Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies (CAVT). During the event, he emphasized that “Battery systems require a lot of research and improvement and development which includes the battery systems themselves, how the interconnectivity works, the hardware and the electronics, the software, and all of this requires a lot of research to improve the performance of battery systems especially in terms of state of health and safety.”

Mike Oatridge, a seasoned automotive industry expert, who leads the Alabama Mobility and Power Center, followed with insights into the transformations underway. “The automotive industry is going to see the largest transformation it has seen probably ever”, drawing parallels between the evolution of phones and the imminent changes in the automotive landscape. He also spoke to the facilities that the AMP center provides, including the ability to produce battery cells and train university students.

The highlight of the event was the Cadillac LYRIQ, a tangible symbol of the University of Alabama’s commitment to innovation. Faculty members had the unique opportunity to explore and test various features of the LYRIQ, providing valuable feedback that will contribute to the ongoing development of the electric vehicle.

The Systems Design and Integration team, responsible for deconstructing and rebuilding the LYRIQ, showcased their hands-on approach to automotive innovation. The Connected and Automated Vehicles team highlighted their work on developing autonomous features and apps for the LYRIQ, demonstrating the intersection of technology and mobility.

The event encapsulated the essence of the University of Alabama’s commitment to driving progress in the automotive industry. The collaborative spirit and dialogue showcased at the event are proof of the university’s dedication to shaping the future of transportation. With programs such as EcoCAR, developing the next workforce of leaders in the automotive industry, paired with the research of the Alabama Mobility and Power Center, the University of Alabama is at the forefront of automotive research and development.