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Virginia Tech opens tire research center

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ALTON, Va.—The National Tire Research Center (NTRC), a $14 million tire research center and test facility funded by Virginia Tech, the state of Virginia and General Motors Co., opened officially for business Oct. 24.

Housed at Virginia International Raceway near Alton, the NTRC is partnered with the Southern Virginia Vehicle Motion Laboratory (SoVa Motion), a Virginia Tech research facility that offers the motorsports industry equipment and expertise for shock and suspension testing, driver performance and a broad range of on-vehicle sensing, as well as a full-motion driving simulator.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University—the full name of Virginia Tech—said two years ago it expected the NTRC to generate more than $12 million in annual testing and research expenditures within five years of its opening, create up to 183 jobs in the local economy by 2020 and open up new research and teaching opportunities for Virginia Tech faculty.

The facility is a partnership involving the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, GM, Virginia Tech's Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), the Southside Virginia community and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Relations Revitalization Commission.

GM and the Tobacco Commission committed in 2010 to provide $5 million each, while Virginia Tech agreed to contribute $4 million.

The center has been established to provide the automotive industry with the testing capability needed to engineer and develop tires to enhance fuel economy and lower emissions, Virginia Tech said, while meeting federal vehicle requirements and customer expectations.

The project's backers claim there is no other single reseach facility in the world that offers this “level and breadth of research, development and testing together in one location” for vehicle and tire makers.

Among the assets already in place is a custom-built Flat-Trac LTRe force and moment machine, the NTRC said, which is capable of testing tires up to 200 mph. The center plans to also incorporate state-of-the-art rolling resistance machinery, enabling tire and vehicle makers to accelerate their development of green tire technology, reproduce real world events and improve vehicle handling and stability.
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