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Greenville Business Magazine

Clemson University Forms New School As Globe Switches To Electric Vehicles

Jan 24, 2023 12:50PM ● By David Dykes

(Deep Orange 11 was recently featured at the Consumer Electronics Show and is an example of the innovative programs in the School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering. Photo from Clemson University.)

The South’s fast rise as a leader in the building of electric vehicles and the batteries to power them is helping drive Clemson University’s decision to form a new school that brings together its mechanical and automotive engineers.

Clemson officials say the new School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering puts the departments of mechanical engineering and automotive engineering under one umbrella, better positioning Clemson for innovation and education in a number of areas, including mobility, energy and advanced manufacturing, all cornerstones of the South Carolina economy.

The founding director of the new school is Zoran Filipi. He was chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering for nearly seven years before vacating his seat to become founding director of the Virtual Prototyping of Ground Systems (VIPR-GS) Center, a position he still holds.

Clemson officials said Filipi will be the top administrator in a strategically important school, with most mechanical engineers located primarily on the main campus in Clemson and most automotive engineers at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville.

The school, first approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2021, is home to 66 faculty members and has the largest enrollment in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, with about 780 undergraduates and 400 graduate students.

Clemson University President Jim Clements said mechanical and automotive engineering at Clemson are entering a new era.

“The School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering will continue to position Clemson University as a national leader in academics and research as well as strengthen key industry partnerships,” Clements said. “The workforce of the future is rapidly changing. 

"Opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning and interdisciplinary research, along with faculty and industry’s need for innovation, entrepreneurship, and discovery will be key to meeting the demands of South Carolina and beyond. 

"Dr. Zoran Filipi, the school’s founding director, is an exceptional leader, and will utilize his expertise and experience in leading the school forward.”

Clemson officials said bringing the mechanical and automotive engineering departments under one umbrella better positions them for collaborative, high-impact research.

Areas of expertise in the new school include autonomy, composite materials, computational modeling and simulation, flow and turbulence, human-robot teams, smart materials, systems integration and vehicle electrification.

Atul Kelkar will continue to serve as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a position he has held since 2018. Laine Mears, who took over for Filipi in January 2022, is the new chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering.

Filipi began work in Clemson’s automotive engineering department in 2012, serving as Timken Endowed Chair in Vehicle System Design. As a researcher and educator, he has worked at the forefront of making the transition from the traditional combustion engine to vehicles that run on near-zero carbon fuels.

He is a leading expert in advanced engine concepts and alternative powertrains, including electric and hydraulic hybrids.

Filipi in 2015 became the second chair in the history of the Department of Automotive Engineering, following its founding chair, Imtiaz Haque. Under Filipi’s leadership the automotive engineering department achieved multi-fold growth in its research enterprise and solidified its world-class reputation for innovation in engineering education and excellence in research.

Filipi was instrumental in forming VIPR-GS, which is part of a research partnership aimed at developing innovative virtual prototyping tools to design the next generation of on- and off-road vehicles, with the U.S. government committing up to $100 million.

He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Belgrade in 1992 and joined the University of Michigan in 1994.

Filipi is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Automotive Engineers. His honors include the society’s Forest R. McFarland Award and The Institution of Mechanical Engineer’s Donald Julius Groen Award.