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Winter 2020-2021 | Research in 2020


Delivering Innovation

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Purdue University to participate in NSF-funded engineering research center to advance electrified transportation

by Jim Bush full story additional photos/animations

The National Science Foundation has chosen Purdue University to participate in a new engineering research center dedicated to advancing sustainable, electrified transportation.

Purdue will be part of a multi-university, public-private collaboration, led by Utah State University, which has received a five-year, $26 million NSF grant, renewable to 10 years and $50.6 million. 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 (ERC) 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.

Purdue Engineering has a strong track record with ERCs. The College has led one of the first centers, on Intelligent Manufacturing Systems, and CISTAR (Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources), launched in 2017.

Serving as Purdue campus director for ASPIRE and leader of the Adoption research thrust will be Nadia Gkritza, professor of civil engineering and agricultural and biological engineering — a prominent expert and innovator in transportation energy and sustainability, including electrified vehicle infrastructure. In addition to teaching courses in transportation engineering, economic analysis of transportation investments, and transportation data analysis, she is an associate editor of the Journal of Transportation Engineering. Gkritza also is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) committees on freight transportation and regulation, on agriculture and transportation, and a former co-chair of the committee on transportation and economic development.

“ASPIRE researchers will convert the threats and weaknesses of this innovation ecosystem to opportunities and strengths through the adoption of technologies across diverse users and stakeholders, vehicle classes, and urban and rural areas,” Gkritza says. “We also foresee opportunities to reduce emissions and near-road exposures to pollutants, coupled with other transportation innovations in shared mobility and automation that will shape data-driven policies encouraging advances.”

Regan Zane, Utah State University professor and ASPIRE center director, says: “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.”

In addition to Purdue, strategic university partners with USU in operating ASPIRE are University of Colorado Boulder, University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Other partners include researchers at Colorado State University, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Virginia Tech, Cornell University, and four national laboratories. Global industry partnerships include more than 40 companies and organizations across the transportation and electric utility industries.

ASPIRE is designated as an Engineering Research Center, the National Science Foundation’s flagship program for transformative multi-institutional research. It is one of four new engineering research centers announced in August 2020. After 10 years, ASPIRE will achieve graduated status and will continue as a self-sustaining research center.

“The field of transportation is in the midst of a transformation not experienced since the invention of the automobile.” – Nadia Gkritza

Purdue ASPIRE Leadership Team

  • Donna Riley, the Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education, will lead engineering workforce development efforts.
  • Rosie Clawson, professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts, will head work toward diversity and culture inclusion.
  • Steve Pekarek, the Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer III Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will lead the power thrust area.

Presented by

College of Engineering at Purdue University