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NREL Adds Electric Vehicle to its Advanced Vehicle Fleet

December 13, 2011

Photo of white passenger van at charging station.

Transit Connect electric vehicle

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently added a Ford Transit Connect electric vehicle to its advanced vehicle fleet, which serves as a technology showcase and a test bed for research and development. Vehicles in the fleet feature promising technologies designed to increase efficiency, reduce emissions, and use renewable resources without sacrificing safety or comfort.

“We’re excited to be among the first organizations in the country to obtain one of these vehicles,” said NREL’s Mike Simpson. “NREL will use the new electric vehicle for studies related to charge management and performance, bi-directional charging, and electric vehicle grid integration.”

NREL engineers will test the vehicle at the new Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility (VTIF). Research at the VTIF examines the interactions between building energy systems, utility grids, renewable energy sources, and plug-in electric vehicles, with a focus on integrating energy management solutions and maximizing potential greenhouse gas emission reductions.

NREL obtained the vehicle as part of a bulk buy orchestrated by Xcel Energy, which secured 10 vehicles for a variety of Denver-area organizations. To celebrate the rollout of these vehicles, Xcel Energy hosted a “Getting Colorado EV Ready" event where Simpson discussed the benefits of electric-drive vehicles and highlighted NREL’s advanced technology vehicle fleet and electric vehicle grid integration work. View excerpts from the event on YouTube.

Designed as a fleet vehicle, the Transit Connect electric vehicle incorporates an electric powertrain developed by Azure Dynamics along with advanced lithium-ion batteries from Johnson Controls. It can achieve a range of 50 to 80 miles, depending on auxiliary usage and drive cycle, and has a top speed of 75 miles per hour. The battery is rechargeable via a 240-volt or standard 120-volt outlet.

“Fleets are major consumers of energy in this country,” Simpson added. “They’re also a key pressure point in reducing fuel consumption and increasing oil independence. NREL’s collaboration with automakers, charging station manufacturers, utilities, and fleet operators to assess technologies is designed 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.”

Learn more about NREL’s electric vehicle grid integration work. Visit the DOE Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center for more information about electric vehicles and where to find alternative fueling stations across the United States.