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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
About NRELEnergy AnalysisScience and TechnologyTechnology TransferTechnology DeploymentEnergy Systems Integration


NREL conducts vehicles and fuels research in laboratories and test sites on its 327-acre main campus and at specialized facilities within the region. Industry, government, and university partners benefit from access to NREL equipment and facilities tailored to analyze a broad spectrum of energy efficient vehicle and fuel technologies and innovations. NREL engineers and researchers work closely with a wide variety of partners to research and develop advanced transportation technologies and systems, moving them from the R&D arena to the marketplace. Learn about working with us.

Photo of heavy-duty vehicle in a laboratory setting.

Heavy-duty hybrid vehicle at the ReFUEL Laboratory.

Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Laboratory

NREL's Renewable Fuels and Lubricants (ReFUEL) Laboratory is a research and testing facility for advanced vehicles and fuels. R&D focuses on improving vehicle efficiency and overcoming barriers to the increased use of renewable diesel, biodiesel, synthetic diesel derived from biomass, and other fuels.

The lab features a chassis dynamometer for vehicle performance and emissions research, engine dynamometer test cells for advanced fuels research, and precise emissions analysis equipment.

Because the ReFUEL Laboratory is located in Denver, Colorado, it is capable of testing emissions and vehicle performance at high altitude. It also features an altitude simulation system to mimic results found at lower altitudes.

Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility

Photo of two heavy-duty vehicle cabs in a parking area next to a building.

South-facing test pad at the Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility.

At the Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility, research examines the interaction of building energy systems, utility grids, renewable energy sources, and plug-in electric vehicles. NREL collaborates with automakers, charging station manufacturers, utilities, and fleet operators to enable plug-in electric vehicle communication with the smart grid and to create opportunities for vehicles to play an active role in building and grid management.

In addition, the site features a test pad for vehicle thermal soak testing and stationary HVAC load testing. A high-fidelity weather station next to the test pad provides a continuous data stream on temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar energy intensity.

Fuel Combustion Laboratory

The Fuel Combustion Laboratory supports NREL's fuels performance work in its efforts to test and evaluate renewable and synthetic fuels and lubricants. Work focuses on characterizing the effect of molecular structure on the ignition properties of various fuel molecules. To support this research, an Ignition Quality TesterTM is used to measure the ignition qualities of diesel fuels as functions of their molecular structure. Additionally, the laboratory is used to investigate the formation of organic acids and peroxides in fuels as well as the stability of fuel blends. Data obtained contributes to improved models of renewable fuel performance in conventional engines and advanced combustion concepts.

Energy Storage Laboratory

Research at this state-of-the-art Energy Storage Laboratory helps battery developers and automobile manufacturers improve battery module and pack designs by enhancing performance and extending battery life. Researchers focus on battery thermal management systems—from the cell level to the battery pack—for electric, hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles, using cutting-edge modeling and analysis tools.

The laboratory houses a large, unique calorimeter that measures battery performance over a wide range of temperatures and battery sizes. Engineers use thermal imaging equipment to capture a battery's infrared fingerprint to diagnose its behavior. Thermal and moisture management properties of fuel cell systems are also assessed. Our capabilities enable world-class research in battery thermal management, battery and vehicle modeling, energy storage from a vehicle systems perspective, and hydrogen storage system analysis and management.

Vehicle Ancillary Loads Reduction Laboratory

Research in the Vehicle Ancillary Loads Reduction Laboratory focuses on improving fuel economy and reducing emissions by decreasing vehicle auxiliary loads, such as air conditioning, while maintaining passenger comfort. Engineers conduct vehicle tests and develop integrated models to evaluate the impacts of advanced window glazings; cooling heat-pipe systems; parked car ventilation; heated, cooled, and ventilated seats; and direct energy recovery and adsorption cooling systems. A life-size thermal manikin uses advanced climate control concepts to evaluate passenger comfort.

Advanced Power Electronics Laboratory

The electric drive system is the technology foundation for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles. Research conducted at the Advanced Power Electronics Laboratory is intended to improve these systems by developing and testing power management components and systems that significantly reduce cost, weight, and volume and increase efficiency and reliability.

Researchers collaborate with industry to develop and evaluate subsystems, including interactions among a vehicle's motor, controller, inverter, energy storage subsystem, load, and thermal management systems. These researchers have extensive expertise in electronic components and control system design and optimization, thermal management, and energy storage and modeling.