NREL conducts vehicles and fuels research in laboratories and test sites on its 327-acre main campus in Golden, Colorado, 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 how to work with us.
Advanced Power Electronics and Machines Laboratory
NREL's Advanced Power Electronics and Machines Laboratory features specialized systems and equipment designed to test power management systems, subsystems, and components, evaluating interconnects and interfaces among an electric-drive vehicle's motor, controller, inverter, energy storage, load, and thermal management systems. The laboratory houses advanced systems and hardware for assessing and developing thermal management technologies, synthesizing bonded interfaces and interconnects, and characterizing the reliability of sub-components within power electronics and motors.
Energy Storage Laboratories
Research at NREL's Energy Storage Laboratory and Battery Thermal and Life Test Facility helps battery developers and automobile manufacturers improve battery designs by enhancing performance and extending battery life. Researchers focus on battery thermal management systems—from the cell- to pack-level—for fully electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid vehicles, using cutting-edge testing, modeling, and analysis tools. NREL's R&D 100 Award-winning Isothermal Battery Calorimeters are the only tools able to determine heat levels and battery energy efficiency within 98% of actual values.
Fuel Combustion and Chemistry Laboratories
Researchers at NREL's Fuel Combustion Laboratory test and evaluate renewable and synthetic fuels and lubricants, focusing on characterizing the effect of molecular structure on ignition properties. The Ignition Quality Tester™ is used to measure and analyze chemistry impacts on ignition and combustion for diesel and gasoline range fuels. NREL's Fuel Chemistry Laboratory is used to perform detailed chemical characterization, performance property measurements, and stability research.
Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Laboratory
NREL's Renewable Fuels and Lubricants (ReFUEL) Laboratory is used to conduct initial screening of fuel candidates, bench-scale research, single-cylinder engine studies, and assessments involving multi-cylinder engines and complete vehicle systems. 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 ReFUEL Laboratory is one of the few facilities in the United States with a chassis dynamometer that operates with laboratory-grade emissions analysis equipment. The lab also features engine dynamometer test cells for fuels research and precise emissions analysis equipment.
Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility
At the Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility (VTIF), research examines the interaction of building energy systems, utility grids, renewable energy sources, and plug-in electric vehicles. The VTIF is being used in tandem with NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility to explore technologies from an integrated systems perspective. 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 to conduct thermal soak testing and stationary HVAC load testing on light- and heavy-duty vehicles. A high-fidelity weather station next to the test pad provides a continuous data stream on temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar energy intensity.
Vehicle Thermal Management and Climate Control Laboratories
NREL's Vehicle Thermal Management Laboratory features a test apparatus to assess combined cooling loop concepts for electric drive vehicles to simulate thermal characteristics of energy storage and power electronic components. The Vehicle Climate Control Laboratory passenger compartment simulator enables rapid, repeatable, and realistic evaluation of advanced climate control concepts, making it possible to predict impacts on thermal comfort and HVAC loads.