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NREL Describes to U.S. Senate Role National Labs Play in Sustainable Transportation Innovation

January 26, 2016

On Thursday, January 21, 2016, NREL's Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center Director Chris Gearhart provided a testimony on new technologies in the automobile industry before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Members of the committee are currently evaluating a bipartisan bill that will include several provisions to boost innovation within the automotive industry through public and private partnerships.

Gearhart's testimony stressed the role of innovation and technology, particularly the role of connected and autonomous vehicles, vehicle electrification and grid integration, hydrogen fuel cell technologies, and efficient internal combustion vehicles that operate on biofuels. He expanded on a variety of projects that NREL researchers are working on with the Energy Department and other national labs, which aim to optimize mobility and energy efficiency through advanced vehicles and fuels research while approaching transportation as a dynamic, integrated system.

"There are technologies on the horizon that promise a future with cars that don't crash, that don't damage the environment and that create new business opportunities we couldn't have imagined just a few years ago," said Gearhart. He continued by providing information about NREL's Connected Traveler project, electric vehicles and battery safety, NREL's partnership with Sandia National Laboratories to advance hydrogen fueling infrastructure, and the DOE's multi-lab effort to enhance the co-optimization of fuels and engines.

Gearhart concluded that these are exciting times for the automotive industry, as automobile manufacturers are creating new technologies at an unprecedented rate and national laboratories can draw upon world-class research capabilities to help the automotive industry meet its critical fuel-economy and emissions objectives.

"There is a range of research underway that will achieve many benefits for the nation's transportation system including improving energy efficiency, reducing environmental impact, and driving U.S. competitiveness," said Gearhart. 

Other witnesses included representatives from the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Electric Drive Transportation Association, and Boston Consulting Group.