Skip to main content

Successful Transportation Lab-Industry Collaborations Spotlighted at Summit

May 18, 2016

On May 4, NREL hosted leaders from the business, government, and research communities at the EERE National Lab Impact Summit to showcase the cutting-edge innovation, bottom-line benefits, and marketplace successes that result from collaboration between national labs and industry. Transportation projects were spotlighted as prime examples of these win-win partnerships, with major automakers, component manufacturers, and fuel producers touting the expertise gained through joining forces with the labs.

The entire event kicked off with a keynote address by Ford Motor Company Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering Ken Washington, followed by a session that featured General Motors Chief Technology Officer Jon Lauckner and EERE Assistant Secretary David Danielson, along with representatives from the  aerospace, utilities, and commercial buildings industries. These initial sessions set the pace for day-long dialogue focused on how industry and labs have come together to address critical technology challenges, deliver market-viable solutions, and improve America's economic competitiveness in sectors including transportation.

"Again and again, we heard our industry partners agree that working together dramatically increases the potential for success, in terms of both research outcomes and making products that meet consumer needs," said NREL Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center Director Chris Gearhart.

A panel discussion led by EERE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Reuben Sarkar and featuring experts from national laboratories and industry explored how these partnerships have advanced innovation in electric vehicles, biofuels, and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. The free-ranging discussion explored how major research initiatives have sprung from lab-industry partnerships, as well as how these alliances have helped advance progress in groundbreaking R&D.

NREL's Adam Bratis and Bill Provine from DuPont shared their experiences in development of cellulosic biofuels, the challenges of integrating cost and technical targets, and the ultimate success justifying a market-scale investment. Dennis Townsend of Xalt Energy and Claus Daniel from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) described how their joint work on electric vehicle batteries promises to boost performance and range in race cars as well as passenger vehicles. Lance Atkins from Nissan and Terry Johnson of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) discussed the advances in hydrogen fueling station infrastructure that their partnership has made possible.

NREL partner Cummins was featured in another session, and event attendees included representatives from Calcharge, Chevron, Covestro, Eaton, Johnson Controls, Local Motors, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, and other major players in the transportation and fuels sectors. In addition to NREL, ORNL, and SNL, fourteen other national labs participated in the summit.

Summit participants were also able to take in exhibits featuring innovations that have come out of lab-industry partnerships. These displays were emblematic of collaborations not just between business and research institutions, but also of those across the national labs. The centerpiece exhibit brought together a Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle from NREL and a 3D-printed building from ORNL's Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy Demonstration Project, which can work together to produce and store renewable energy.

"In addition to innovation, we know that the impact of groundbreaking discoveries relies on a solid understanding of real-world needs," said NREL Vehicle Technologies Program Manager John Farrell. "These partnerships help us ground research in marketplace realities."

Learn more about the Lab Impact Summit, NREL's transportation, hydrogen fuel cell, and biofuel research, as well as partnership opportunities.

—Nicolene Durham