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Vehicle Technologies Office: Fuel Efficiency and Emissions

Substantially improving vehicle efficiency has the potential to drastically increase the United States’ economic, energy, and environmental security.  On-road vehicles account for nearly 60 percent of total U.S. oil consumption and more than a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the major contributor to climate change.

The Vehicle Technologies Office is supporting research to greatly improve the fuel efficiency and reduce the emissions produced by both light and heavy-duty vehicles. It also supports, which provides consumers with the fuel economy of all vehicles back to 1984, as well as tips to help drivers save money and fuel.

If VTO is fully successful in meeting its technical goals and these technologies are widely adopted, it would reduce highway petroleum use up to 1.8 million barrels a day by 2020. These technologies will help manufacturers reach federal fuel economy standards requiring new light-duty vehicles average 54.5 mpg by 2017 and new medium and heavy-duty vehicles become substantially more efficient.  These technologies have the potential to save consumers and businesses trillions of dollars.

Much of this research focuses on technologies that can improve the efficiency of a variety of vehicles, including internal combustion, alternative fuel, and plug-in electric vehicles.  VTO supports work in these areas to improve overall vehicle fuel economy and reduce emissions:

  • Combustion engine research focuses on improving new combustion strategies that can greatly improve engine efficiency and minimize the emissions formation in the engine itself.
  • Emissions reduction research focuses on reducing the cost and improving the efficiency of aftertreatment technologies that reduce exhaust emissions. It also has software to help calculate greenhouse gas and other emissions.
  • Waste heat recovery research focuses on improving technology that converts wasted engine heat into electricity that can power vehicle accessories and auxiliary loads.
  • Fuel effects research focuses on better understanding how fuels from new sources can affect advanced combustion systems.
  • Lubricants research focuses on improving lubricants that can improve the fuel efficiency of future and current vehicles in the fleet.
  • Idling reduction work focuses on minimizing unnecessary idling from vehicles.
  • Lightweighting research focuses on lowering the cost and improving the performance of lightweight materials like high-strength steel, aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber.
  • Aerodynamics and other parasitic loss research focuses on reducing the energy lost to non-engine sources such as drag, braking, rolling resistance, and auxiliary loads like air conditioning.

VTO carries out this research in partnership with industry through U.S. DRIVE for light-duty vehicles and 21st Century Truck Partnership for heavy-duty vehicles.  In addition, it works closely with its national laboratories, which offer a number of unique computing resources and research facilities.  VTO selects research and development projects through a competitive solicitation process and offers funding opportunities throughout the year.