The Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) partners with researchers at the national laboratories and industry to identify technologies and strategies needed to achieve the best combination of high fuel economy and low emissions. There are a large number of advanced powertrain configurations that could potentially provide these benefits. However, it is not feasible to build actual vehicles to evaluate each of these possible configurations. To evaluate these configurations' viability and performance characteristics, researchers rely on accurate, flexible simulation tools to build "virtual vehicles." These models accurately predict the performance and efficiency of the vehicle and its components, allowing manufacturers to test more configurations than they would be able to otherwise, improve quality, reduce time to market, and lower cost. VTO has supported the development of a number of modeling and simulation tools that are used throughout the vehicle industry.

Autonomie, developed by Argonne National Laboratory through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with General Motors, is a comprehensive “plug-and-play” advanced vehicle modeling and design software package that any vehicle manufacturer can use. Autonomie allows researchers and engineers to evaluate the energy consumption, performance and cost of advanced powertrains (i.e., conventional, hybrid electric, plug-in electric, and fuel cell hybrid); component technologies; and control algorithms in a wide range of driving conditions. Freed from needing to develop their own proprietary design software, vehicle manufacturers can invest funding elsewhere, including research and development. Autonomie provides a complete analysis of the entire vehicle system with a very large number of inputs. It builds off of the previous Powertrain System Analysis Toolkit (PSAT), which received a R&D 100 Award in 2004. Currently, there are more than 130 companies worldwide using Autonomie, including government agencies, the auto and energy industries, research institutions, universities, and public interest groups. Autonomie is available through a license from LMS International, Argonne’s exclusive licensing agent providing software distribution and support. To support DOE-funded activities and for other specific purposes, it is available free of charge.

For a simpler, faster model that requires fewer inputs, VTO has supported the development of the Future Automotive Systems Technology Simulator (FASTSim) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. FASTSim allows researchers to quickly evaluate a large number of simple configurations for conventional, hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and all-electric vehicles. It is available for free as an Excel file for download.

In addition to industry, these models are useful to the federal government to guide research, development, and policy. They provide characteristics of hypothetical “reference vehicles” that represent all of the possible versions of advanced technology vehicles. VTO, with the U.S. DRIVE Partnership, uses the potential efficiency and cost improvements of these reference vehicles to create roadmaps to guide future research and development. A number of VTO’s analytic tools used to understand the transportation system use inputs from Autonomie. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also incorporated elements of Autonomie into the model it used to set the light-duty fuel economy standards.

VTO closely couples its modeling work with its efforts to collect laboratory and real-world data from actual components and vehicles. This benchmarking data feeds into these software models, increasing the accuracy of their calculations.