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Vehicle Technologies Office: Moving America Forward with Clean Vehicles

The U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Office supports research, development (R&D), and deployment of efficient and sustainable highway transportation technologies that will improve fuel economy and enable America to use less petroleum. These technologies, which include plug-in electric vehicles (also known as PEVs or electric cars), batteries, electric drive technologies, advanced combustion engines, lightweight materials, and alternative fuels, will increase Americans’ mobility and energy security, while lowering costs and reducing environmental impacts.

What We Do

We collaborate with industry leaders through partnerships like U.S. DRIVE and 21st Century Truck, to develop and deploy advanced vehicle technologies, including highly efficient combustion engines, lightweight materials, and electric drive vehicles. These technologies can lead to significant fuel economy improvements and replace oil with domestic fuels, setting the foundation for clean, efficient, sustainable, and cost-competitive vehicles. Our research and development is guided by technology roadmaps and goals, including the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge goal to enable plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) that are as affordable and convenient for the American family as gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022. Learn more about how to work with the Vehicle Technologies Office.

Why It Matters

Improving vehicle efficiency and moving away from petroleum-based fuels is essential to reducing consumers' fuel costs, supporting domestic industry, minimizing pollution, and increasing energy security. Americans spend more than half a billion dollars a day to import oil, with transportation accounting for more than two-thirds of this use. In 2012, oil dependence cost the U.S. $171 billion in lost potential GDP (Transportation Energy Data Book, Chp 1, Fig 1.4). In addition, transportation accounts for almost 30 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Our research and development enables vehicle manufacturers to adopt new, efficient technologies. If companies fully develop and commercialize technologies  that are currently supported by the Vehicle and Fuel Cell Technologies Offices, it could save as much as 3.1 million barrels a day or 18% of the total U.S. petroleum consumption by 2035 as projected in the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 Reference case, according to the “Prospective Benefits Assessments of Vehicle Technologies” report by Argonne National Laboratory. For example, increasing fuel efficiency by 50 percent in Class 8 combination trucks (tractor trailers), as VTO's SuperTruck program aims to do, would save 300 million barrels of oil a year, based on current consumption.

  • Saving You Money While Meeting Transportation Needs
    Purchasing a vehicle with better fuel economy can save consumers and businesses a substantial amount over the lifetime of the vehicle. The average consumer spends more than $2,700 a year on gas and oil for their vehicle (Chp 8, Table 4). For example, a consumer who purchases a vehicle that gets 30 miles to the gallon instead of 20 miles to the gallon will spend about half as much on fuel, saving more than $600 a year, based on a gasoline price of $2.49/gallon. The research and development we do in collaboration with industry and our national laboratories will maintain the safety, performance, and power of today's vehicles while allowing for significant increases in fuel economy.
  • Supporting the U.S. Economy
    Helping consumers spend less on imported fuel means that they have more money to reinvest in the American economy. Reducing the fuel expenses of heavy-duty vehicles, such as long-haul trucks and transit buses, can lower the costs of the companies running these vehicles to do business. These savings can increase domestic companies' competitiveness and potentially lower prices for consumers. Supporting domestic development and manufacturing of efficient and advanced vehicles helps continue America's long history of automotive production and offers great promise for the future.
  • Improving Our Energy Security
    Improving efficiency and replacing oil with domestic alternative fuels helps reduce our reliance on imported petroleum. This improves the country's resiliency against oil price shocks and decreases the amount of money the U.S. sends abroad. While the number of vehicles in the U.S. is expected to remain steady, the number of vehicles worldwide is expected to increase from one billion now to more than two billion by 2040, according to Argonne National Laboratory's VISION model. As worldwide demand for oil rises, these technologies will help provide Americans with greater freedom of mobility while increasing our energy security.
  • Protecting the Public Health and the Environment
    Transportation accounts for 28% of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and 59% of the nitrogen oxide emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These harmful emissions contribute to global climate change and smog. Reducing emissions from vehicles through efficient and clean technologies can substantially contribute to lowering these emissions, improving public health and protecting global ecosystems.