DOE established the Graduate Automotive Technology Education (GATE) Centers of Excellence to provide future generations of engineers and scientists with knowledge and skills in advanced automotive technologies. By funding curriculum development and expansion as well as laboratory research, GATE allows higher education institutions to develop multidisciplinary training. As a result, GATE promotes the development of a skilled workforce of engineering professionals who will overcome technical barriers and help commercialize the next generation of advanced automotive technologies.

To that end, ten GATE centers were originally established in 1998 at nine universities. In 2005, DOE held a second competition to form new, or expand, existing GATE Centers of Excellence. Award recipients received funds to support graduate research and establish and/or expand course study and laboratory work. These improvements supported graduate engineering degree programs with a focus or certificate in critical automotive technology areas. Eight universities received awards in 2005 for programs focused on hybrid propulsion systems, fuel cells, advanced computation and simulation, energy storage systems, biofuels, and lightweight materials.

In late 2011, the GATE initiative awarded $6.4 million over the course of five years to support seven Centers of Excellence at American colleges, universities, and university-affiliated research institutions. The awardees will focus on three critical automotive technology areas: hybrid propulsion, energy storage, and lightweight materials. The newly designated GATE Centers are as follows:

  • The Ohio State University — This project will help prepare a new generation of engineers to lead system integration projects in the following areas related to energy-efficient vehicles: efficient energy conversion, advanced energy storage, lightweight body and chassis systems, and vehicle systems control, including vehicle-grid and vehicle-infrastructure connectivity.
  • Regents University of Michigan — This project will establish a GATE Center for Electric Drive Transportation at the University of Michigan - Dearborn (UMD). The center will build upon UMD's existing PhD and Master's (MS) Degree programs in Automotive Systems Engineering (ASE), as well as faculty expertise and research achievements in the area of electric drive vehicles, including battery electric vehicles, extended-range electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
  • Regents University of Colorado, Colorado Springs — This project will create the Innovative Drivetrains in Electric Automotive Technology Education (IDEATE) project, a partnership between The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) and the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) that will focus on graduate education in electric drivetrain vehicles. The project goal is to achieve a 50% reduction in commercial vehicle fuel use, resulting in fuel savings of about 6,000 gallons/year per commercial vehicle. To achieve this objective, the Center will provide eight Research Fellowships and industry-supported research projects.
  • Purdue University — This project will allow Purdue University's Hoosier Heavy Hybrid Center of Excellence to comprehensively train, educate, and equip the next generation of research scientists and engineers to address technical challenges and respond to opportunities unique to medium and heavy-duty hybrid vehicles.
  • Clemson University — This project will allow Clemson University to establish a GATE Center of Excellence in Sustainable Vehicle Systems that will train the highly skilled engineering workforce of the future to understand and address challenges in advanced vehicle design and development, including life-cycle impact of vehicles, energy use and emissions, reliability, manufacturing, cost-of-ownership, customer preference and public policy.
  • Pennsylvania State University — This project will allow Penn State University's GATE program to coordinate laboratory and training resources among several research units including the Larson Institute, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, and the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. The GATE Program Faculty will develop industry relationships and support through individual energy storage centers and the Hybrid and Hydrogen Vehicle Research Laboratory.
  • The University of Alabama at Birmingham — This project will allow the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Engineering to expand its GATE Center of Excellence in Lightweight Materials and Manufacturing Technologies. The UAB GATE center will be a multi-disciplinary entity representing ten GATE faculty members specializing in Materials, Mechanical, Biomedical and Civil Engineering.

To be selected, each school had to meet very stringent requirements. Each proposed a curriculum and process for guiding and administering the academic and research aspects of the GATE Program. Each school also had to have significant experience with one or more of the key technologies and have access to laboratory facilities and equipment to support their proposed programs.