Matthew Thornton joined NREL in 2000 and today serves as a strategic program manager in the Energy Conversion and Storage Systems Center. In conjunction with his NREL position, he is an affiliate professor at Colorado State University and an adjunct professor at the Colorado School of Mines, where he teaches a course he developed on transportation, energy, and the environment.

Previously he managed NREL’s Fuels and Combustion group, which conducts cross-cutting research spanning from individual molecules to vehicle-scale fuel economy and emissions performance. He also served as NREL’s principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Storage Engineering Center of Excellence, advancing materials-based hydrogen storage systems for fuel cell vehicles, and oversaw NREL’s Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Laboratory.

Research Interests

Emission formation and controls

Hydrogen storage

Intelligent vehicle energy analysis

Sustainable transportation and mobility pathways

Transportation fuels and combustion

Transportation and mobility research


Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

M.S., Civil Engineering, Michigan State University

Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Michigan State University

B.S., Geography (Environmental Science Emphasis), University of Oregon

Professional Experience

National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Strategic Program Manager (2020–Present)

Principal Research Engineer and Group Manager (2011–2020)

Senior Research Engineer (2000–2011)

Colorado School of Mines, Adjunct Professor (2019–Present)

Colorado State University, Affiliate Professor (2017–Present)

Post, Buckley, Schuh, and Jernigan, Inc., Senior Transportation Engineer (1997–2000)

Atlanta Regional Commission:

Senior Transportation Planner (1995–1997)

Transportation Planner (1994–1995)

Featured Work

Off-Road Vehicle Decarbonization and Energy Systems Integration: R&D Gaps and Opportunities, NREL Technical Report (2022)

Characterization of Commercial Vehicles' Start-Up Operations from In-Use Data, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment (2021)

Investigation of Emissions Impacts from Hybrid Powertrains, NREL Technical Report (2020)

System Design, Analysis, and Modeling Activities Supporting the DOE Hydrogen Storage Engineering Center of Excellence, NREL Milestone Report (2019)

Design Tool for Estimating Chemical Hydrogen Storage System Characteristics for Light-Duty Fuel Cell Vehicles, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2018)

Aerodynamic Drag Reduction Technologies Testing of Heavy-Duty Vocational Vehicles and a Dry Van Trailer, NREL Technical Report (2016)

Data Collection, Testing, and Analysis of Hybrid Electric Trucks and Buses Operating in California Fleets, NREL Technical Report (2015)

Integrated Vehicle Thermal Management for Advanced Vehicle Propulsion Technologies, NREL Conference Paper (2010)

Technology Improvement Pathways to Cost-Effective Vehicle Electrification, NREL Conference Paper (2010)


Parallel Integrated Thermal Management, U.S. Patent No. 8,806,882