Local News

N.C. State, Northampton Facility Jumps Into Research For Cutting-Edge Vehicles

Posted March 7, 2006

— The highways of the United States are filled with new and old automobiles. Soon they'll all join the ranks of the old clunker class, because the cars of today won't look like the cars of tomorrow. And there's a Tar Heel connection: design work by North Carolina State University, and a testing track in Northampton County.

It is at the site near Interstate 95 that researchers are looking to build the Advanced Vehicle Research Center. The drive: to get all the major car manufacturers to come there to research, design and test the cars of the future.

"The automobile has gone through more changes in the last 5 to 10 years in probably 20 or 30 years prior to that," said Richard Dell with the Advanced Vehicle Research Center.

In 1952, the Buick LeSabre was G M's car of the future. In 1961, it was the Corvette. Continued competition will force manufacturers to build more efficient powered vehicles. Their fuel will be hydrogen-powered, not gas. That's a project already in the works at N.C. State.

"That (project) we hope to complete this year that will run on either ethanol or hydrogen," said

Look for electronics to be the key ingredient. Radio signals will warn drivers about traffic and dangers ahead, and even control steering and speed.

"So many of the features and gadgets that people have today they use in their personal lives," said General Motors spokeswoman Cindy Williams.

The Northampton County testing facility will not only test the gadgets in new automobiles, but older models. The ultimate goal is helping end the country's dependence on foreign oil.

One of the first projects at the Northampton County site will be a hydrogen refueling station on I-95. $1.5 million in federal funding has been approved for the hydrogen fuel pipeline.

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