A group of four universities, including The University of Texas at Austin, recently won a grant from the National Science Foundation for the second phase of their Industry-University Cooperative Research Center. The Center for Efficient Vehicles and Sustainable Transportation Systems (EVSTS) works closely with automobile makers to tackle pressing challenges of making vehicles more sustainable, connected and efficient.

The Research: Projects underway at the center focus on a variety of topics, including electrified vehicle powertrains, emissions control, alternative fuels, vehicle systems optimization, transportation systems and infrastructure, shared fleets of self-driving vehicles and smart battery-charging systems. The projects include partnerships with major automotive companies such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Cummins Engines and Cruise LLC.

Why It Matters: Transportation is responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. at 29%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the last 30 years, emissions from transportation have increased faster than any other sector. It’s imperative, the researchers say, to make the nation’s transportation network more sustainable as part of the larger effort to reduce pollution and battle climate change.

”This four-university research center blends academic, industrial and government partners who work together to accomplish a shared vision of an efficient, autonomous future for on-road ground vehicles,” said Ron Matthews, site director for the UT Austin team.

The Players: The center is a collaboration between UT Austin, Arizona State University, University of Alabama and University of Louisville. The UT Austin team includes Matthews, a professor emeritus and Carl Eckhardt Fellow in Mechanical Engineering; associate site director and transportation engineering professor Kara Kockelman; mechanical engineering professor Matt Hall and UT Energy Institute research associate Dave Tuttle.

What’s Next: The award is $2 million over five years. In that period, the researchers at UT Austin plan to continue some of their current projects, such as readying the most efficient gasoline-powered vehicles for stringent future emissions standards and developing software to make clean-burning natural gas engines more fuel efficient. And they’re starting several new projects, including one focused on co-mingling large charging sites for all-electric, autonomous fleets with already existing private charging banks.