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Heavy-Duty Vehicle Thermal Management

Infrared image of a semi cab and two people.

NREL analysis and modeling assess the energy saving impact of advanced climate control materials and equipment on heavy-duty vehicles. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Illustration of a truck with labeled energy-saving elements.

NREL researchers assess the energy saving potential of films, paints, advanced insulation, micro-environmental design, and idle reduction technologies. Illustration by Ray David, NREL

NREL researchers help heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers and operators with energy-efficiency technology to mitigate high fuel costs and meet more stringent idling regulations.

NREL's CoolCab thermal management project focuses on optimizing truck heating and cooling systems to improve efficiency while reducing operating expenses, fuel consumption, and emissions. Researchers explore technologies and methods for improving truck cab heat transfer and climate control system performance, and work with vehicle and component manufacturers to develop effective solutions. Using analysis and modeling techniques, researchers assess the energy saving potential of advanced materials and equipment—including films, paints, advanced insulation, micro-environmental design, and idle reduction technologies—for heavy-duty vehicles.

Enhancing the thermal performance of truck cabs will enable smaller, lighter, and more cost-effective idle reduction solutions. In addition, if fuel savings from new technologies can provide a one- to three-year payback period, fleet owners will be economically motivated to incorporate them.

While heavy-duty vehicles and advanced thermal management technologies undergo assessment at an outdoor test pad, researchers also use computer-based modeling tools to evaluate performance. NREL's CoolCalc and CoolSim vehicle thermal management modeling tools are available for researchers and outside partners to use for simulating climate control energy use and calculating the potential benefits of thermal load reduction options.