The Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) works with a variety of Department of Energy National Laboratories to maintain unique user facilities and conduct research on advanced combustion engines and emission control. VTO collaborates with 10 auto/engine and 5 energy companies, 5 national laboratories, and several universities to develop the knowledge base for advanced combustion strategies such as low temperature combustion, dilute (lean-burn) gasoline combustion, and clean diesel combustion. This effort works to reduce critical barriers to implementing advanced combustion technology in light- and heavy-duty engines for passenger and commercial vehicles. 

In addition, to further research and development on Emission Control, VTO supports the Crosscut Lean Exhaust Emissions Reduction Simulation (CLEERS) Working Group. CLEERS is a consortium of industry, national labs, and universities that promotes developing and improving computational tools to simulate realistic full-system performance of advanced engines and emission control systems. 

VTO works with the Office of Science/Basic Energy Sciences’ (BES) research facilities and expertise at the national laboratories to accelerate R&D conducted by industry and universities. The national laboratories’ facilities and expertise are unique, and require federal support along with industry and university participation to sustain them. A description of some of the facilities VTO works with at the National Laboratories in combustion are below.  To learn more about working with the National Laboratories visit the Department of Energy’s National Laboratory Impact Initiative. 

Sandia National Laboratories/Livermore National Laboratories

  • A unique and large set of optically accessible engines that provide images of the combustion process in real-time, allowing researchers to collect better data from actual engines.
  • High-pressure engine combustion simulators using advanced laser-based and optical diagnostics.
  • High-fidelity computational tools (e.g., Direct Numerical Simulation and Large Eddy Simulation for simulating fluid dynamics) and high-performance computing resources that provide quantitative data for researchers to investigate engine-related combustion phenomena.
  • Learn more on the Combustion Research Facility’s page.


Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Foundational algorithms that provide greater accuracy and better predictability of the complex physics involved in internal combustion engines than ever. These algorithms allow for an engine modeling capability generally too expensive for industry or universities to produce on their own.
  • Cutting-edge algorithms and turbulence modeling that researchers can use in specific engine models. These capabilities include high performance parallel computational methods and injection (spray) modeling. This research has led to the KIVA family of modeling software, which numerous vehicle manufacturers have used to develop efficient, clean internal combustion engines.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

  • Research that has led to an increased understanding of detailed chemical kinetic mechanisms that occur in specific types of combustion reactions
  • The highest fidelity modeling available of complex engine phenomena. This modeling enables simulations to capture an unprecedented level of accuracy. For example, it has performed more than 10,000 engine simulations to identify the reaction pathways for gasoline low temperature combustion.
  • Algorithms that are up to eight times faster than leading commercial chemistry software. These make it possible for researchers to use high fidelity engine modeling in engine design.
  • Learn more on the laboratory’s page on combustion research.


Argonne National Laboratory

  • High-power X-Rays from the Advanced Photon Source.  Researchers can use X-rays to quantitatively characterize fuel sprays, which allows manufacturers to improve fuel injector designs. The X-rays also enable researchers to carry out new sampling techniques and conduct high-resolution transmission electron microscopy on diesel particulate matter.  Using these techniques, they can observe the detailed three-dimensional geometry of diesel particulates and characterize them in a much more accurate manner than previous methods. With this research, vehicle companies can design and manufacture better diesel and gasoline particulate filters to reduce harmful emissions.
  • Combustion imaging that allows researchers to capture data at full speed and full load in a real engine and accurately estimate gas temperatures throughout the combustion cycle.
  • Learn more on the laboratory’s page on engines research.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • The Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center, which has multiple unique facilities that conduct work on combustion, emissions, and emissions controls at the  nano-scale, bench-scale, engine-scale, and vehicle-scale.
  • A variety of tools to characterize emissions, including extensive gas chromatography-mass spectrometry instruments, novel sampling methods, and diagnostics focused on accelerating technology development with industry.
  • Intense pulsed neutron beam from advanced neutron sources (such as the Spallation Neutron Source) that allows for non-destructive characterization and imaging of operating engines and components.
  • Petaflop-scale supercomputing facilities (“Titan”) that allow researchers access to unprecedented detail in modeling combustion and simulation of engines.
  • Learn more on the laboratory’s National Transportation Research Center’s page.


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

  • The Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory, which has state-of-the-art computational, analytical, and experimental capabilities. These unique resources help scientists increase our fundamental understanding of catalytic materials, the chemical reactions occurring on catalyst surfaces, and the reactions within the catalysts.  This understanding helps them improve emission control for fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • The Institute for Integrated Catalysis, a unique facility that integrates multiple capabilities related to catalyst synthesis, modeling, and characterization as well as aftertreatment testing.
  • Significant expertise in surface chemistry, catalyst mechanisms, modeling of multiphase flow and chemical processes, material synthesis, and aerosols. This expertise helps their researchers find and improve solutions to reduce exhaust emissions from diesel and gasoline engines, which will help manufacturers meet future emissions standards.