Virginia Tech announced today the establishment of the National Tire Research Center (NTRC), an advanced tire research and test facility to be established in Southside Virginia.

The facility is a partnership between the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, General Motors (GM) Company, the Department of Mechanical Engineering in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), the Southside Virginia community, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Relations Revitalization Commission.

Funding for the center will total $14 million with $5 million provided by GM, $5 million from the Tobacco Commission and $4 million from Virginia Tech.

The NTRC will generate more than $12 million in testing and research expenditures within five years and create up to 183 new jobs in the local economy by 2020. In addition, the NTRC will generate substantial new research and teaching opportunities for Virginia Tech faculty. The center will be located adjacent to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Halifax County, Va., and will be used to supplement tire testing and development.

"We are very proud that Virginia Tech can play a significant role in this innovative public-private partnership,” said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. “We believe that this national research center will enhance and expand areas of automotive research, and create tremendous economic activity in Southside Virginia. It will also develop new products that can save energy and improve the safety of motorists around the world. This effort is yet one more example of how our research can pay huge dividends for our communities and businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond."

Southside Virginia has an economy traditionally based in furniture and clothing manufacturing, tobacco farming and motorsports. Although the manufacturing and tobacco farming sectors have dramatically declined in recent years, motorsports and its associated automotive technologies have grown and there is opportunity for additional expansion.

The NTRC will be managed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute under the direction of Tom Dingus, director of the institute with Virginia Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering leading the technical effort and IALR providing additional local support.

“We are very excited about the development of this research and testing center at Virginia Tech,” said Dingus, who also is the principal investigator for the tire center proposal. “This facility will be the only one of its kind in the world and will generate world class tire research data while generating significant revenue and high tech jobs in Southside Virginia.”

The NTRC has been established to conduct independent testing, research and assessments to complement research and development performed by tire and auto manufacturers with a focus on increasing research on green technology.

The NTRC will provide the automotive industry with testing capability that is necessary to engineer and develop tires that will provide higher fuel economy and lower emissions than are currently available. Automotive and tire manufacturers have long needed access to the NTRC’s level of testing capability. This level of research, development and testing in one location does not exist anywhere else in the world.

“As a founding member of the NTRC, GM looks forward to partnering with Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth of Virginia to pioneer research and development that will develop green tire technologies to further improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles in the future,” said Karl Stracke, GM’s vice president of Global Vehicle Engineering.

The NTRC will house a newly designed force and moment machine, designed for passenger car, light truck and race car tires. The center will also incorporate state-of-the-art rolling resistance machinery, enabling tire and automotive manufacturers to accelerate the development of green tire technology, reproduce real world emergency events, and improve vehicle highway safety. The data provided by the NTRC will accelerate the development of these technologies and enable another significant leap in the use of computer-aided engineering (CAE) simulation in automotive engineering.

The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission is a 31-member body created by the 1999 Virginia General Assembly. Its mission is the promotion of economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement. To date, the commission has awarded 1,252 grants totaling more than $660.7 million across the tobacco region of the Commonwealth and has provided $234 million in indemnification payments to tobacco growers and quota holders. The NTRC supports the commission’s mission by building on the performance engineering and automotive research and development assets in Southside.

"One of the Tobacco Commission’s main goals is to bring prosperity back to our region. This is why the commission invested $5 million into a tire research facility that will be located at VIR. The goal is to develop a new passenger tire that will increase car mileage by three to five miles per gallon," said Danny Marshall, representing the 14th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.

GM engineers and scientists, and Virginia Tech faculty members will work together to conduct research and testing, thus enabling the industry to more rapidly introduce vehicles with the newly developed technology. The NTRC will provide significant research opportunities for the automotive industry, and will create additional research and funding opportunities for vehicle manufacturers, tire manufacturers, the motorsports industry, and government agencies. Engineers and scientists from industry and universities will be offered an educational opportunity in tire and vehicle technology related topics, short courses, distance learning and facility visits. The NTRC will have a significant direct impact on the automotive industry and on the local economy.

Under the leadership of Dingus, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has emerged over the past 10 years as an international leader in the transportation research arena. The institute employs an elite team of multi-disciplinary researchers, engineers, technicians, support staff and students and serves as Virginia Tech’s largest university-level research center. The institute is dedicated to conducting applied research from various perspectives by developing and using state-of-the-art tools, techniques, and technologies to solve various transportation challenges. With facilities such as the Virginia Smart Road at its disposal, the institute has earned a unique standing in the transportation research field and is recognized as a "one-stop-shop" for transportation research, evaluation, analysis, and development. By providing real-world research results, the institute is effecting significant change in public policies in the transportation domain on the state, national, and international levels with the ultimate goal of saving lives, improving mobility and enhancing efficiency on our highways.

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