Cold climate testing: collaboration between the University and the Automotive Industry.

At Luleå University of Technology (LTU), research and development connected to the car testing industry in Swedish Lapland is being conducted. Since 2005, the operations are clustered under the label CASTT, Centre for Automotive Systems Technologies and Testing.

– We help companies in the automotive industry with test procedures, methodology and research regarding friction and dynamic vehicle systems, all in a winter climate setting, which is the core of our operations, says Roger Tuomas, Head of Operations at CASTT

Tell us a bit more about the University’s role and about the research?
”We work within a strong network, and in close cooperation with the automotive industry. LTU plays a vital role in conducting and monitoring the research when it comes to car testing in cold climate. Looking into the future, we are assembling all research connected to winter climate in a cluster for a wide range of industries: automotive, railway, hydropower, defence industry, textiles and other materials. The aim is to be able to work in joint research projects and transfer knowhow between different fields. We are expecting synergy effects that favour all actors. Beyond the research, LTU also has a major responsibility when it comes to skills supply within the field. Since the beginning of 2000, one of the fields of engineering at LTU is aimed specifically towards the needs of the automotive industry.”

Describe the conditions here in northern Sweden for research connected to the automotive industry and cold climate?
”Sweden is at the forefront internationally when it comes to car testing in cold climate. We have unique conditions due to the subarctic climate, with long, cold winters with plenty of snow. Another important parameter is the proximity to Europe, with good access due to well-developed road network and flight connections. The region’s infrastructure for automotive testing is optimal, with tailored facilities and high competence regarding all related services, something that has developed since the beginning of the 1970’s. The whole value chain from the automotive industry is represented within the region, from car manufacturers to all large players on the component side. All these factors in combination with the strong network are important to conduct relevant and high quality research.”

How do you think testing and research within the automotive industry will develop?
”New types of vehicles, autonomous cars for instance, will require new types of testing of finished products as well as security systems and components. Another mayor challenge is the development of future power sources; like electricity and hydrogen gas. It will occupy both researchers and the testing industry for many years to come. In order to minimise the human factor during testing, we are also seeing increased use of automation steering in the testing industry. Within LTU, research is conducted to improve the algorithms of the automation to work better on wave friction surfaces such as snow and ice. We are also a part of the planning of a new indoor facility for testing vehicles in a more controlled environment. That provides us with the opportunity to conduct repetitive testing, which produces more reliable test and research results, and a prolonged testing season.

How do you foresee the future for research in the automotive industry?
”I see great potential for testing and research connected to the car industry and cold climate. There is every possibility to develop this into a primary industry for midland Swedish Lapland. The car industry operates on a highly competitive market and the manufacturers are pressured into developing new models at an increasing pace to competitive prices. That also increases the demand for research and testing – one simply can not afford to make mistakes, everything must work according to plan once the cars hit the market.”

CASTT – Centre for Automotive Systems Technologies and Testing
With a strong base in winter climate conditions, CASTT at Luleå University of Technology conducts research and education at the cutting edge automotive system technologies and testing. This strengthens our industry partners in advanced testing and technology development. Since the beginning of CASTT in 2005, the center has gathered automotive industry and organizations as well as researchers to collaborate in pushing automotive research, development and testing into the future. This involves test entrepreneurs in Northern Sweden, Test Site Sweden, vehicle and component manufactures, the Swedish Transport Administration, among other partners.