NREL Fuels and Engines Research: Maximizing Vehicle Efficiency and Performance (Text Version)

Read the text version of the NREL Fuels and Engines Research: Maximizing Vehicle Efficiency and Performance video.

$1.7 trillion dollars. That's how much U.S. consumers and businesses could potentially save in fuel costs with more efficient vehicles.

At NREL, we investigate how to maximize vehicle efficiency and performance through the co-development of fuels and engine technologies, bridging fundamental research and engineering. This innovative approach has the potential to positively impact our economy, national energy security, and air quality.

Our fuels and engines research covers the full spectrum of innovation—from fuel chemistry, conversion, and combustion to the evaluation of advanced fuels in actual engines and vehicles. 

With fuel chemistry, our scientific discoveries start out small. We use quantum mechanical modeling to study the chemical and electronic properties of fuels.

For biofuels, we use computational modeling to characterize the molecular nature of feedstocks. This enables us to tailor the conversion of biomass into specific fuel molecules that produce the desired properties for high efficiency, low emission engines.

We then develop biomass conversion processes at bench-scale, producing liters of biofuel for real-time performance feedback. At our biochemical and thermochemical pilot plants, we can scale up to produce 50 gallons per day, which allows for evaluating optimized biofuels in engines and vehicles.

We can also explore how fuels with varying chemistry interact with engine and vehicle design.

At our Fuel Combustion Laboratory, we analyze the effects of fuel chemistry on ignition and the potential emissions impacts. Our lab equipment features a combustion chamber platform allowing for a wide-range of experimental conditions to develop efficient combustion and diversify fuel options for engines.

For fuel experiments, we can also connect to a high-performance computing system to validate kinetic models in a matter of hours rather than weeks.

Then, we can evaluate fuel performance and emissions in actual engines and vehicles at our Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Laboratory, known as the ReFUEL lab.

The lab houses two engine dynamometer research cells—one for multi-cylinder engines and another for single-cylinder research engines.

The multi-cylinder engine dyno features advanced controls and data acquisition systems, allowing for customized research. It can be used to investigate fuel chemistry effects on current and near-term engine technology.

The single-cylinder engine dyno is a flexible platform for evaluating advanced fuels. Its full, independent control allows for deeper interrogation of fuel effects on future-generation engine strategies.

The ReFUEL lab is also home to one of the nation's few heavy-duty, chassis dynamometers. This dyno simulates on-road driving in a controlled, laboratory setting. Because it accommodates entire vehicles, we can assess the real-world performance and emissions of small trucks, delivery vans, and even buses and Class 8 freight trucks.

Paired with the research cells, the lab features an advanced emissions measurement system with supplemental air and fuel conditioning for experiment repeatability. 

NREL's fuels and engines research covers the full spectrum of scientific innovation—from fuel chemistry to evaluating advanced fuels in vehicles.

We tackle higher-risk projects, addressing large-scale issues, which are crucial to overcoming initial, technological hurdles.

And we leverage research partnerships to deepen our understanding and impact on the adoption of sustainable transportation solutions.

We enable industry to bring high-performance fuels and advanced engine systems to market sooner—accelerating their affordability, scalability, and sustainability, all of which boost our nation's economy and energy security.