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Vehicle Thermal Management Facilities

Image of a building with two semi truck cabs in front of it.

The VTIF is used for thermal testing of every class of on-road vehicle.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 19932

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) uses research and testing facilities to develop advanced thermal management technologies for vehicles.

Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility

The Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility features a test pad to conduct vehicle thermal soak testing and stationary heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) load testing on light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles. Four indoor vehicle bays, including one test bay built specifically for heavy-duty vehicles, allow for vehicle modification and instrumentation. 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 Climate Control Laboratory

Image of combined fluid loops bench test apparatus.

Combined fluid loops bench test apparatus in the Vehicle Thermal Management Laboratory.
Photo by Daniel Leighton, NREL

The Vehicle Climate Control Laboratory consists of a thermal passenger compartment simulator fashioned from a passenger car. As the passenger cabin is exposed to simulated sunlight, external temperatures, humidity, and simulated 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, making it possible to predict impacts on thermal comfort and HVAC loads.

Vehicle Thermal Management Laboratory

The Vehicle Thermal Management Laboratory features a test apparatus to assess combined cooling loop concepts for electric drive vehicles. The apparatus consists of conditioned air loops for the evaporator and condenser, a compact refrigerant-to-liquid air conditioning (A/C) system, and electric heaters to simulate heat generated by the energy storage and power electronic components. Models are used to simulate thermal characteristics of the passenger compartment, as well as the power electronics and energy storage systems.