James Liu, right, managing director of Novelis China and vice president of automotive, Novelis Asia, signed the MOU with Sifa Zheng, vice president of TSARI and professor at Tsinghua University. Photo: Novelis

Atlanta-based aluminum giant Novelis Inc. has signed an agreement with Tsinghua University’s automotive research center near Shanghai. 

Based in Beijing, Tsinghua is one of China’s most prestigious institutes of higher learning. Its Tsinghua University Suzhou Automotive Research Institute, or TSARI, works as a think tank that incubates new technologies for the auto sector, having delivered more than 100 products to some of China’s largest domestic car makers. 

Novelis China and TSARI are partnering to bring new aluminum parts to market that will reduce car weight and drive efficiency. They’ll start with electric vehicle battery enclosures, material tests and a joint study of Noise Vibration Harshness — tests of vehicles’ sound characteristics.  

“We are glad to have reached a strong partnership with Novelis. As an independent think tank in the Chinese automotive industry, TSARI is dedicated to accelerating the application of cutting-edge technological research, commercializing emerging scientific achievements, and facilitating cooperative relationships between leading players and ourselves,” Zheng Sifa, Vice President of TSARI and professor at Tsinghua University, said in a news release, stressing TSARI’s independence at a time of bilateral tensions over technology transfer.  

The announcement comes as Novelis expands its footprint in China, a key market for the rolled aluminum and aluminum sheet that Novelis sells all over the world. During the recently concluded fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, the company completed a $2.8 billion acquisition of Aleris Corp., the rationale for which had to do with the company’s aerospace portfolio and sizable footprint in China. Novelis also commissioned a new automotive finishing plant in Changzhou, China, in the second half of the fiscal year.  

The company is in the process of building a closed-loop recycling system in China for aluminum, which is lauded by environmentalists for its ability to be recycled almost infinitely without deteriorating, unlike paper or plastic.  

Novelis saw its fiscal 2021 sales jump 9 percent to $12.3 billion from the previous year, and fourth quarter (the January through March quarter) saw a nearly threefold increase in sales to $176 million, over the pandemic-hit period in 2020. But net income suffered, falling to $237 million for the year after $221 million in losses resulting from the planned divestiture of former Aleris assets.  

Novelis is a subsidiary of India‘s Aditya Birla Group. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...