CLEMSON — A department chairman who plays a pivotal role in connecting Clemson University to the automotive industry and is a leading expert on internal combustion engines and hybrid vehicles has been chosen for one of mechanical engineering’s highest honors.

Zoran Filipi was elected Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a distinction that puts him in the top 2.5 percent of an organization that has 136,591 members.

Zoran Filipi

Zoran Filipi was elected fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The fellowship is expected to draw international attention to Clemson’s automotive engineering department at a time when the state’s automotive and tire industries are growing.

“This is a great honor and privilege,” Filipi said. “It comes at a very exciting time for all of us working on engine and powertrain research since there is a global renaissance fueled by the need to transform the car as we know it.”

Experts are seeing an increasing need for research as companies scramble to meet federal fuel-efficiency regulations while still meeting consumer demand for vehicles that are safe, fun, affordable, comfortable and high-performing.

Fuel efficiency falls squarely within Filipi’s area of expertise. He is a leading expert on hybrid electric vehicles, hydraulic hybrids and advanced internal combustion engines.

Several experts see South Carolina’s role broadening beyond manufacturing to include more research and development of new technologies, which would mean more high-paying jobs for the area.

Filipi plays a central role in the effort as chair of the automotive engineering department and executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center.

He oversees the graduate academic programs that are supplying automotive engineers to the industry and are key to bringing new jobs to the state.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science, said that the fellowship shows the level of scholarship that Filipi brings to Clemson.

“He is a top-flight researcher and among the best of the best in his field,” Gramopadhye said. “I congratulate him. It is a well-deserved honor.”

The automotive engineering department is in Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science and is based at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).

The department started with three graduate students in 2006 and grew to more than 200 last year. All students in the program study at the graduate level, pursuing masters’ and doctoral degrees. Nearly 20 faculty members, most based out of CU-ICAR, are part of the department.

Filipi began work in the department in 2012 as the Timken Endowed Chair in Vehicle System Design. He was introduced in January as department chair.

Filipi received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Belgrade in 1992 and joined the University of Michigan in 1994. There he was the director of the Center for Engineering Excellence through Hybrid Technology and the deputy director of the Automotive Research Center.

He is a fellow in the Society of Automotive Engineers. Filipi’s honors include the society’s Forest R. McFarland Award, The Institution of Mechanical Engineer’s Donald Julius Groen Award and the University of Michigan Research Faculty Achievement Award.

He is editor-in-chief of The SAE International Journal of Alternative Powertrains.