Skip to main content

Vehicle Thermal Management

Image of two cars and three semi cabs in a parking lot with a testing meter.

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

NREL works with vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, and fleet partners to research energy-efficient solutions to climate control and thermal system challenges.

NREL’s thermal management research helps optimize the thermal performance of light- and heavy-duty conventional, hybrid, and electric vehicles. Inefficient cabin climate control can dramatically increase fuel consumption and emissions, and can pose a safety hazard due to ineffective windshield defrosting and defogging.

Researchers are exploring advanced approaches to climate control—such as improvements to cabin insulation; window systems; and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems—to increase fuel economy and decrease emissions while maintaining passenger comfort.

Light-Duty Vehicles

The more than 232 million light-duty vehicles in the United States account for more than 59% percent of all transportation-related energy use. NREL's light-duty vehicle thermal management research develops and evaluates technologies that reduce the amount of energy needed for climate control in both conventional and electric-drive vehicles.

Heavy-Duty Vehicles

Trucks move about 72% of the 18.3 billion tons of freight transported across the United States each year. Idling these vehicles to heat and cool cab/sleeper spaces improves driver comfort and safety, but consumes large quantities of fuel and produces polluting emissions. NREL's heavy-duty vehicle thermal management research helps cut fleet operating costs, fuel consumption, and emissions by reducing the amount of energy required to control cab temperatures.

Learn about NREL’s vehicle thermal management research facilities and modeling and analysis tools.


Browse our vehicle thermal management publications.