The Future of Sustainable Transportation
January 29, 2015
Illustration of an electric vehicle being charged wirelessly simply by driving on an electrified roadway.
Illustration by Josh Bauer, NREL
Connecting Electric Vehicles to the Grid
A sustainable transportation future will rely on innovative systems connecting vehicles, utilities, renewable energy sources, and buildings.
NREL is working with partners to develop electrified transportation systems that allow electric vehicles (EVs) to interact with the power grid, providing the opportunity to shift transportation energy demands from petroleum to electricity.
This animation depicts a potential future transportation scenario in which EVs are charged via electrified roadways (e-roadways).
Truck Platooning Delivers Fuel Savings
Semi-automated truck platooning reduces aerodynamic drag by grouping vehicles together and safely decreasing the distance between them via electronic coupling, allowing multiple vehicles to accelerate or brake simultaneously. NREL's initial test results indicate that platooning improves gas mileage at all speeds, but travel at 55 mph results in the best overall fuel economy. A number of conditions impact the savings, including ambient temperature, distance between lead and trailing truck, and payload weight.
Businesses Install Charging Stations for Workers' Electric Vehicles
Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are playing a growing role in the country's transportation future. U.S. employers are recognizing that more employees are driving PEVs, and access to workplace charging can double a PEV driver's daily commuting range and bolster an organization's sustainability efforts. In addition, workplace charging can provide incentives to workers considering buying a PEV. To date, more than 160 employer partners have joined the U.S. Department of Energy's Workplace Charging Challenge, a program that aims to increase the number of employers offering workplace charging tenfold by 2018 and invites employers to pledge to provide workplace charging.
New Tool Helps Optimize Battery Lifespan
While upfront costs of lithium-ion batteries need to be dramatically cut for electric vehicles (EVs) to reach a wider audience, lifespan optimization and synergistic business approaches offer additional ways to make EVs more affordable. NREL's new Battery Lifetime Analysis and Simulation Tool (BLAST) suite makes it possible to predict long-term performance of batteries in a wide range of business strategy, use, and infrastructure scenarios—including fast charging, wireless charging, and battery swapping—and identify possible improvements. It has also been paired with NREL's Battery Ownership Model (BOM) to evaluate lifetime battery costs in conjunction with performance, longevity, and new value propositions.
Evaluation Focuses on Utility Vehicle Capable of Exporting Power to the Grid
NREL has teamed with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Efficient Drivetrains Incorporated to evaluate the performance of a unique Class 5 plug-in hybrid electric bucket truck. The innovative utility vehicle is equipped with batteries and an electric generator that can export up to 120 kW of power—enough to power a neighborhood while repairs are being made by electric crews. NREL test results will help PG&E fine-tune the design of such vehicles and assist with expanding their use.
Learn more about opportunities to collaborate with NREL on sustainable transportation solutions.