Mobility Behavioral Science

NREL's mobility behavioral science research takes a comprehensive, people-centered approach to examining community patterns, with a focus on the interactions among populations, transportation options, energy systems, and the built environment.

We partner with research institutions, government agencies, and industry to tackle some of the world's most difficult sustainable mobility challenges while pursuing a better quality of life for all.

The Science of Understanding People's Transportation Options

NREL's behavioral scientists combine data, field observations, and analysis of trends and patterns to better understand and predict how people will respond to new sustainable mobility options. Identifying priorities related to cultural, social, environmental, economic, geographic, and political issues makes it possible to deliver clean and efficient transportation solutions that will meet the place-specific needs of diverse communities nationwide.

A diagram, titled Decarbonizing Personal Transportation, with icons illustrating human behavioral factors that can account for individual mobility decisions, including causal factors of mobility behavior (sociodemographic, status, affordability, convenience, geography) and mobility needs (work, entertainment, shopping, school), as well as sustainable transportation modes (aviation, vehicle, ride share, transit, micromobility, walking) to meet these needs.
Human behavior is at the core of individual mobility decisions that are vital to the nation’s transition to sustainable, equitable, and resilient energy systems, ultimately affecting the ability to decarbonize modes of personal transportation. Illustration by Josh Bauer, NREL

Supporting Breakthroughs To Meet Diverse Mobility Needs

NREL's behavioral science expertise spans decision-making science, sociology, anthropology, urban planning, and cognitive science to study how individual practices can impact transportation decarbonization, efficiency, and mobility equity goals.

Photo of people riding bicycles on San Francisco city street, with bus and cars in background, cable car wires above, and pedestrians on sidewalks.
Electric mass transit buses, car-sharing, and electric bikes can provide sustainable mobility choices that are a better fit for diverse populations. Photo from iStock

Our mobility behavioral science research helps smooth a path for transitions to new technologies while benefiting the planet, the economy, and society. For example, if plans for sustainable transportation focus exclusively on increasing the adoption of privately owned electric vehicles, this shift in technology will primarily serve wealthy households. In both the country and the city, underserved populations may not own vehicles, have access to charging stations, or live in areas with many transportation options.

Instead, NREL researchers are exploring a wider spectrum of mobility options that behavioral science has helped identify as strategies that better meet the needs of working class and low-income populations. Additional solutions include electrifying mass transit buses and trains, on-demand ride-sharing, community car-sharing, and electric bikes and scooters. These options can give residents more consistent access to preventive health care, a larger pool of jobs, educational opportunities, and goods and services critical for daily living.

NREL behavioral scientists collaborate with researchers across the laboratory and around the globe on a range of mobility and clean energy projects.

Learn more about NREL's behavioral science research capabilities.


NREL published journal articles, conference papers, and reports about behavioral science.


Nicole Rosner

Behavioral and Social Sciences Team Lead