What We Do
The U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Office supports research, development (R&D), and deployment of efficient and sustainable transportation technologies that will improve energy efficiency, fuel economy, and enable America to use less petroleum. These technologies, which include advanced batteries and electric drive systems, lightweight materials, advanced combustion engines, alternative fuels, as well as energy efficient mobility systems, will increase America’s energy security, economic vitality, and quality of life.
We collaborate with industry leaders through partnerships like U.S. DRIVE and 21st Century Truck to accelerate the development of advanced technologies, including highly efficient combustion engines and fuels, lightweight materials, and advanced batteries and electric drive systems, as well as to understand opportunities to maximize mobility and minimize energy impact. Our research and development is guided by technology roadmaps and with clear goals and technical targets. Visit our success stories page to explore VTO funded research that led to commercialization.
Learn more about how to work with the Vehicle Technologies Office.
Why It Matters
Improving vehicle efficiency is essential to reducing consumers' fuel costs, supporting domestic industry, minimizing pollution, and increasing energy security. Americans spend nearly half a billion dollars a day to import oil, with transportation accounting for 70% of domestic petroleum consumption in 2015 (Transportation Energy Data Book, Table 1.13). In 2014, oil dependence cost the U.S. nearly $50 billion in lost potential GDP (TEDB, Table 10.5). In addition, transportation accounts for more than 26% 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, SuperTruck I improvements of 50% fuel efficiency in Class 8 combination trucks would save 260 million barrels of oil per year; SuperTruck II improvements of 100% fuel efficiency would save 400 million barrels of oil per year.
- 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 household spends about $2,500 on vehicle gas and oil (TEDB, Table 8.4). For example, a consumer who purchases a vehicle that gets 30 miles to the gallon instead of 20 miles to the gallon will save about $600 a year on fuel, based on a gasoline price of $2.36/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 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. 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 more than 26% of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and 57% 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.