Amir Khajepour may be soft-spoken, but his quiet demeanour is deceiving. This mechatronics professor thinks big. And he is ensuring that Waterloo Engineering is part of building the future of electric vehicles.
His lab, Mechatronic Vehicle Systems Laboratory, at the University of Waterloo buzzes with more than two dozen graduate students, post-doctoral students and visiting researchers, all working to shape a new automotive future.
Khajepour heads up an $8-million, public-private research effort to develop green, intelligent transportation, and he holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Mechatronic Vehicle Systems.
Hungry for more success, he’s also poured his ambition and vision into creating the Joint Laboratory for Green and Intelligent Vehicles, a partnership with the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) in China.
It’s a clear example of iron sharpening iron.
For more than a decade now, the University of Waterloo and BIT have enjoyed a close relationship that includes research and academic exchanges. Waterloo brings an international reputation, especially in engineering, while the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR) is the biggest centre of its kind in Canada.
Meanwhile, BIT is home to the National Engineering Laboratory for Electric Vehicles — a powerhouse that has developed more than 20 types of vehicles, including zero-emission buses that shuttled passengers between stadiums during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. BIT also boasts a Low Emission Vehicle Research Laboratory that focuses on developing clean fuel technologies, including hydrogen power, biodiesel and solar energy.
Research facilities partnering for the future of electric vehicles
Khajepour is keen to tap into BIT’s impressive facilities, but the biggest benefit of the partnership from his perspective is the potential to access the world’s largest automotive market.
“The vehicle industry in China is huge,” he says. “It’s a ripe market for many, many things.”
The joint lab spearheaded by Khajepour contributes to Waterloo’s goal of becoming one of Canada’s most connected universities internationally. It is among hundreds of academic and research agreements helping foster insights required to tackle pressing global issues.
Through the Waterloo-BIT collaboration, researchers will be able to tap the expertise of colleagues, take advantage of world-class laboratories and fast-track breakthroughs in the field.
“I think from both sides, that will be beneficial,” Khajepour says. “When they are coming here, they obviously see how we work, how we manage our research, what topics of research we have. And when we go there, we can understand exactly what type of problems or research their companies or industries are looking for.”
The key is securing research funding to make the new joint lab more than an agreement on paper. Khajepour is currently scouting out potential grants. If he succeeds, top talent on both sides of the world will soon be collaborating to develop smarter, cleaner, energy-conserving cars.
And that is where the future lies.
“The whole idea of green and intelligent is exactly what the whole industry is going to,” Khajepour says.