Skip navigation to main content.
NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
About NRELEnergy AnalysisScience and TechnologyTechnology TransferTechnology DeploymentEnergy Systems Integration

Laboratory Capabilities

Photo of ADAM (ADvanced Automotive Manikin) and heat/cooled ventinlated seat testing at VALR Lab.

NREL's Vehicle Ancillary Loads Reduction Laboratory houses ADAM, our advanced thermal manikin, as well as a passenger compartment climate simulator, testing equipment to develop heat-generated cooling, and other state-of-the-art tools.

Vehicle Ancillary Loads Reduction Laboratory

An array of advanced testing and measurement equipment is deployed in the drive to develop advanced climate control concepts at NREL's Vehicle Ancillary Loads Reduction Laboratory. Such equipment in the hands of our expert research staff helps move us toward the goal of improving the efficiency of vehicle ancillary systems and ultimately reducing fuel consumption nationwide.

The lab's most sophisticated piece of test equipment is ADAM, the ADvanced Automotive Manikin. ADAM is a human body-shaped surface sensor that measures heat loss at 120 independently controlled zones. As the manikin "sweats" and "shivers," corresponding data goes into a computer model that simulates human thermoregulatory responses. Another computer model predicts human thermal comfort. Learn more about the thermal manikin and modeling.

Photo of vehicle climate control testing at VALR Lab.

Also housed in the lab is a thermal passenger compartment simulator fashioned from a real car. As the passenger cabin is exposed to simulated sunlight, changing external temperatures, humidity, and windflow, its cabin interior is cooled using an air conditioning system and is monitored with sensors linked to a computerized data acquisition and control system. The cabin simulator enables rapid, repeatable, and realistic evaluation of advanced climate control concepts, allowing us to predict impacts on thermal comfort and fuel economy.

Future research will combine the capabilities of ADAM, the thermal manikin, with those of the cabin simulator. Seated behind the wheel, for example, ADAM may experience cooling, heating, or ventilated seating. Ventilated seats with imbedded electric fans have already been developed and tested at the lab. The expectation is that increased comfort locally (near the body) may decrease the need to cool the entire cabin.

Photo of thermoacoustic device used for heat generated cooling testing at VALR Lab.

Other specialized instrumentation at the lab includes hot-wire anemometers, used to measure airflow in ventilation systems and in experimental thermoacoustic waste-heat cooling systems. Thermal imaging of vehicle interiors is done with an infrared camera. Expertise and equipment for measuring spectral lighting are available on loan from other NREL labs.

Vehicle Ancillary Loads Reduction (VALR) researchers at NREL test vehicles outdoors as well as indoors. In our multiple vehicle thermal soak test programs, we typically have a baseline vehicle (as shown in the picture below) and a modified vehicle. Outdoor testing has focused on ventilation systems, body paints, and advanced window glazings. NREL started out as a solar research facility, and is home to the National Center for Photovoltaics. Its campus is located in Golden, Colorado, where the sun shines more than 300 days per year.

Photo of outdoor vehicle testing for ancilliary loads reduction.

Other transportation laboratories at NREL include the ReFUEL and Fuel Chemistry labs, which are renowned studying the effects of high altitude on fuel. The Energy Storage Laboratory houses a one-of-a-kind calorimeter that measures battery performance over a wide range of temperatures and battery sizes. At the Renewable Power Management Laboratory, research focuses on developing low-cost, high-power integrated power electronics devices.