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Automotive Engineering Major

Automotive Major

Ready to get under the hood? Automotive engineering will bring together design and analysis of engines with a study of environmental issues and energy efficiency. Students in this program will graduate with the skills to see engine design with a critical eye, and hands-on research will provide a rich experience for putting science into motion.

Grant Carter works on a grinder for theVirginia Tech Grand Touring Team.
Grant Carter works on a grinder for the Virginia Tech Grand Touring student team. Photo by Ryan Young for Virginia Tech.

Program Outcomes:

We expect our students to have the following skills, knowledge, and behaviors by the time of their graduation. We want our students to obtain:

  • An ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
  • An ability to apply the engineering design process to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration for public health and safety, and global, cultural, social, environmental, economic, and other factors as appropriate to the discipline.
  • An ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
  • An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
  • An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
  • An ability to recognize the ongoing need to acquire new knowledge, to choose appropriate learning strategies, and to apply this knowledge.
  • An ability to function effectively as a member or leader of a team that establishes goals, plans tasks, meets deadlines, and creates a collaborative and inclusive environment.


The Automotive major differs from the general ME degree in the Junior 2nd semester. Two courses are required for the AUTE major that are not required for general ME students:

  • ECE 3254- Industrial Electronics:
    INDUSTRIAL ELECTRONICS Fundamentals of electronics, including basic device principles. Include digital, operational amplifier, and analog analysis for industrial applications and magnetic circuits. For students in the Mechanical Engineering program or by permission of the ECE Department. Pre: 2054. (3H,3C)
  • CS 1044- Introduction to Programming in C:
    INTRODUCTION TO PROGRAMMING IN C Fundamental concepts underlying software solutions of many problems. Structured data, statement sequencing, logic control, input/output, and functions. The course will be taught using a structured approach to programming. Partially duplicates 1344. (3H,3C)

Some students may find that they can take these two courses earlier than Junior 2nd semester. That is ok as long as the student is able to distribute their course load in a manageable way. CS 1044 may be taken at VT or a community college very easily. ECE 3254 is not available, to our knowledge, elsewhere.

Senior year courses that differ from the general ME degree:

  • ME 4544 Automotive Engineering:
    AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERING Vehicle performance, drive train, suspension, steering, and brake systems. Steady state and transient conditions. Senior standing in Mechanical Engineering required. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4564 Vehicle Control (pre. ME 3524, ME 3534):
    VEHICLE CONTROL Overview of vehicle control systems and control algorithms for anti-lock braking, stability, road holding, lane departure, traction control, and tire pressure monitoring. Advanced driver assist systems and intelligent tire technology. Hands-on experience with hardware-in-the- loop systems. Mathematical modeling and simulation of vehicle control. Pre: 3524, 3534. (3H,3C)

Six credits of technical electives are required for the degree and typically completed in the senior year. Students should be sure to pay attention to when courses are taught and plan accordingly. It is not guaranteed that a course will be taught in the student’s senior year so it is also important to have back-up course selections.  

  • ME 3604 Kinematics and Dyanmics of Machinery:
    KINEMATICS AND DYNAMICS OF MACHINERY Kinematic analysis and design of cams, gears, and linkages, velocity, acceleration and force analysis, kinematic synthesis, balancing, kinematic and force analysis by complex numbers, computer-aided analysis, and synthesis of linkages. Pre: ESM 2304. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4204 Internal Combustion Engines:
    INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES Analysis and design of gasoline and diesel engines. Fundamental processes and their application in current technology. Thermodynamics: air standard and air-fuel cycles. Combustion: stoichiometry, fuels, chemical equilibrium, chemical kinetics, flame propagation, knock, pollutant formation and control. Flow processes: volumetric efficiency, intake and exhaust tuning, two-stroke scavenging, carburetion, fuel injection, super- and turbo-charging. Pre: 2134, 3414. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4554 Advance Technology of Motor Vehicles:
    ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY FOR MOTOR VEHICLES Energy use and environmental issues for motor vehicles: Emissions standards, fleet requirements, dynamometer testing, fuel economy, and vehicle performance. Alternative fuel vehicles: Characteristics and infrastructure of fuels, batteries, electric vehicles, and hybrid electric vehicles. Vehicle design: Modeling and simulation of vehicle energy use and performance, component sizing. Fuel cells for transportation. Heavy-duty vehicles and busses. Low mass vehicles and future vehicle technology. Pre: 2134. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4644 Rapid Prototyping:
    INTRODUCTION TO RAPID PROTOTYPING Participants will study topics fundamental to rapid prototyping and automated fabrication, including the generation of suitable CAD models, current rapid prototyping fabrication technologies, their underlying material science, the use of secondary processing, and the impact of these technologies on society. The rapid prototyping process will be illustrated by the actual design and fabrication of a part. Programming skills required. Pre: 3024. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4744 Mechatronics:
    Theory and Application: MECHATRONICS: THEORY AND APPLICATION Electromechanical design and control applications. Theory, modeling, simulation, analysis, design and building of electronic interfaces and controllers; sensors and actuators; software development, micro-controller technology, and applications. Design Lab/Studio. Pre: 3534, ECE 3254, CS 1044. (3H,2L,4C)
  • ME 4974 Independent Study:
    Must get approval from department.
  • ME 4994 Undergraduate research:
    Must get approval from department

AUTE students are not required to take ME 4124 (CAD of Thermal Fluids).

AUTE students must participate in a year-long senior design project approved for the AUTE major. Senior design teams are assigned during the first week of classes of the student’s senior year.

Major FAQs

The curriculum requirements for the degrees are the same until junior 2nd semester. At that point, AUTE students begin taking courses that specialize in the automotive industry. Students in the AUTE major have priority when adding AUTE courses. It is possible that a general ME students may not be able to take automotive course work if they do not major in AUTE.

We recommend that students who major in AUTE are sure that they want to pursue a job in the automotive industry. Pertinent course work mixed with work experience in automotive related jobs are the two most important factors for a student pursuing a career in the automotive industry. If you are not sure if you want to pursue an automotive career, please speak with an ME Advisor and/or a Career and Professional Development Advisor for career exploration.

Yes, you can. However, you may need to delay graduation in order to fit in all of the requirements for the two degrees. You will need to participate in a senior design project that meets requirements for both majors which means your options may be limited.

If you are interested in double majoring, you should set up a meeting with your ME Advisor to discuss your course plan.

Yes, to determine which courses from the AUTE major will double count for undergraduate and graduate coursework, you can speak with an ME Graduate Advisor.