The design work of Western Washington University's Vehicle Research Institute has received international acclaim. It has been described as "very possibly the best school in the country for total car design," (Automobile Magazine). The Institute has been featured in Omni, Popular Science (Dec 2009), and New Scientist of London.
In the fall of 1994, VRI received over $4 million in federal grants to develop a prototype portable thermophotovoltaic generator. In addition to full-vehicle design and fabrication, VRI also develops engines and researches, aerodynamics and safety features. Clients have included Subaru, Chrysler Corp., Toyota of Canada, NASA Lewis Research Center, Ford Motor Co., Alcoa Aluminum, and Nissan Corp., plus many others.
As one of the leading schools for automotive design in the region, the Western Washington University Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) has a long track record of excellence in competition. The VRI has been awarded the EPA's P3 Award for vehicle emissions, displayed a vehicle at NASA Ames research labs in California, been mentioned at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, and published in Seattle Metropolitan and on Wired (Nov 2008, Feb 2009).
Since 1972 more than twenty vehicles have been designed and built by undergraduate students and faculty at the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University. Thirteen of these vehicles have been quite distinctive from each other and built to meet specific design criteria. Over $7,000,000 has been raised by the VRI in grants from government, industry and private individuals to complete the various projects at the VRI.