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Automotive Industries spoke to Professor Mike Tovey, Director for Design at Coventry University

The UK-based Coventry University has long been recognized as a centre of excellence for automotive design. In 2005, the Higher Education Funding Council for England established 74 Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning or CETLs and Coventry University gained three of them. Its Centre of Excellence in Product and Automotive Design (CEPAD) was awarded more than £2.5million to set up its prestigious national centre.

Located in the School of Art and Design it was selected for the award because of its innovative work and international reputation in transport and product design. The aim of the project is to bring together the expertise of some of the most renowned car companies and leading universities in the world. “This grant has enabled us to fit out a Digital Interaction Studio. Our Virtalis stereo system will help our students to see where they need to make adjustments to their CAD models of cars, which are acknowledged to be among the most complex shapes to design. As an illustration, the VR system shows detailed reflections allowing analysis of the quality of surface, and ultimately design achieved,” said John Owen, head of Industrial Design at Coventry in a press release.

Apart from offering degrees in automotive design and engineering, Coventry University also works closely with automotive companies in research and development. Coventry University has streamlined the process of getting industry involved in its research projects. Its Centres of Excellence play an important role in this by attracting investment to their projects.

Some of the companies with which Coventry University works with include ArvinMeritor, Corning, Engelhard, Ford Motor Company, Jaguar/Land Rover and Johnson Matthey. The university’s s vehicle studies department works with computer simulation to investigate problems in predictive engineering in the areas of vehicle handling and safety. Projects make use of industry standard software including MSC.ADAMS (Automotive Dynamic Analysis of Mechanical Systems) for vehicle handling simulation and MADYMO for crash and impact studies.

The university works extensively with a major automotive manufacturer and one of their component suppliers to develop a cooling system model for installation on a PC to enable cooling system design engineers to predict cooling system performance and assess proposed system changes. In the arena of intelligent transportation systems, Coventry University is working on an automotive on-board diagnostic system that allows car parameter monitoring and a voice synthesizer module gives warning to the driver if the parameters exceed predefined thresholds.

The university is also working on a project to reduce vibro-acoustics in automotive interiors. Reduction of the noise and vibration in a vehicle is a major requirement for achieving world-class vehicle quality, performance and customer satisfaction. In addition, noise pollution is a serious environmental and health issue. “This research aims to investigate unused so far methods for vibration and noise reduction, focusing on structure-born noise. The main idea is to devise a programme for simple, yet effective internal design modifications, which will improve NVH with minimal negative impact on other vehicle attributes, such as structure, aerodynamic parameters, ride comfort, handling, etc,” says Coventry University.

Automotive Industries spoke to Professor Mike Tovey, Director for Design at Coventry University.

AI: Please tell us a little about Coventry University’ brand & expertise as an “International Centre of Excellence in Automotive Industrial Design & Engineering”.

We were voted the best design school in the world in an international symposium in 2004, received the Sir Misha Black Award in 2006 and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education in 2007, all for our design courses specializing in automotive design. Clearly we can claim to be amongst the top in the world.

AI What kind of facilities does your university offer for studies in automotive design and engineering? And what are the courses and international programs you offer in this subject?

We have facilities which we believe are unique to any university in the world. These include our Bugatti Building (Supported by the Bugatti Trust) which houses a full size vehicle design and styling studio, which supports detailed surface prototyping. It sits alongside full size stereo VR facilities. This has allowed us to work with a number of transport companies many on a basis of commercial confidentiality, and including a wide range of applications from the design of bespoke SUVs to specialist diving equipment. Some of the work is student related, and it can involve multinationals such as Renault and Fiat. The design and development work is often with smaller specialist companies such the leading edge hydrogen fuel cell powered Microcab for which we have been a core partner holding an equity stake.

We also have fully equipped engineering workshops and laboratories, where particularly in the area of emissions we are conducting leading edge research.

AI: What role do the industry partnerships play in these courses?

There is a close link between both our commercial design work much of it brought in through our Design Hub link on our technology park, and the postgraduate student work at M.Des, MSc and MA level.Each year we run a number of projects in collaboration with companies which form a core part of the programmes of study. In recent years the post graduate students have worked with Renault, Ferrari, Mazda, Fiat and Modec. Specialist companies such as Solutia Europe have also been involved. In addition we place students for work periods of typically six months in a range of companies, across Europe

AI: What are some of the products/technologies that have emerged from the industry-university cooperation?

Well much is covered by confidentiality, but we are working on some highly innovative products associated with waste disposal. However in the public domain probably the most visible is the hydrogen fuel cell powered Microcab vehicle which was exhibited at Transport for London recently, and is now being field tested in Birmingham.

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