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Clemson University forms new school behind electric vehicle manufacturing boom

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Deep Orange is a vehicle prototype program at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research for the pioneering education, research and industry collaboration within the graduate degree programs in automotive engineering. (Photo/Clemson University)

The South’s fast rise as a leader in the building of electric vehicles and the batteries to power them is helping drive Clemson University’s decision to form a new school that brings together its mechanical and automotive engineers, according to a news release from the school.

The new School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering puts the departments of mechanical engineering and automotive engineering under one umbrella, better positioning Clemson for innovation and education in a number of areas, including mobility, energy and advanced manufacturing, all cornerstones of the South Carolina economy, the news release stated.

The founding director of the new school is Zoran Filipi. He was chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering for nearly seven years before vacating his seat to become founding director of the Virtual Prototyping of Ground Systems (VIPR-GS) Center, a position he still holds, the release stated.

Filipi will be the top administrator in a strategically important school, with most mechanical engineers located primarily on the main campus in Clemson and most automotive engineers at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville, according to the release.

The school, first approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2021, is home to 66 faculty members and has the largest enrollment in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, with about 780 undergraduates and 400 graduate students.

mechanical and automotive engineering at Clemson are entering a new era.

“The School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering will continue to position Clemson University as a national leader in academics and research as well as strengthen key industry partnerships,” Clemson University President Jim Clements said in the release. “The workforce of the future is rapidly changing. Opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning and interdisciplinary research, along with faculty and industry’s need for innovation, entrepreneurship, and discovery will be key to meeting the demands of South Carolina and beyond.

“Dr. Zoran Filipi, the school’s founding director, is an exceptional leader, and will utilize his expertise and experience in leading the school forward.”

Areas of expertise in the new school include autonomy, composite materials, computational modeling and simulation, flow and turbulence, human-robot teams, smart materials, systems integration and vehicle electrification, according to the release.

Atul Kelkar will continue to serve as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a position he has held since 2018. Laine Mears, who took over for Filipi in January 2022, is the new chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering, the release stated.

Angie Leidinger, senior vice president for external affairs and senior advisor to the Board of Trustees, said the school will play a key role in providing South Carolina with the engineering leadership it needs to continue growing its economy.

“The School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering positions us for the future as we partner with private companies and state and federal governmental entities to create industry leaders and innovators of tomorrow,” she said in the release. “The auto industry is going through a sea change, and the partnership between these two departments will help us meet evolving needs. I congratulate Dr. Filipi and look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Reach Jason at 864-568-7570.

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