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DOE Teams Up to Advance Natural Gas Vehicle Research

Natural Gas Powered Heavy Duty TruckLiterally and figuratively, vehicles are driving the U.S. economy. Vehicles transport 11 billion tons of freight annually, which is about $35 billion worth of goods each day,[1] and Americans drive more than 3 trillion vehicle-miles per year.[2]  As the transportation sector continues to grow, diversified affordable solutions will ensure resiliency and affordability, while meeting increasing energy demands. Natural gas is poised to play a key role as a versatile, low-emission fuel and is an increasingly attractive alternative to conventional diesel fuel.

To help advance natural gas vehicle technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), California Energy Commission, and South Coast Air Quality Management District have partnered to launch a research effort to drive past technical barriers to the increased use of natural gas for medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles.

As part of this effort, NREL issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to award up to $11 million for projects that focus on: (1) reducing the cost natural gas vehicles, (2) increasing vehicle efficiency, and (3) advancing new innovative medium- and heavy-duty natural gas engine designs. This RFP builds on the lessons-learned from the partners’ broad experiences in natural gas vehicle technologies.

Projects selected through this solicitation will complement Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) research started in FY 2017 to improve the performance, reliability, durability, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency of natural gas vehicles. VTO’s work and the RFP announced today build are informed through stakeholder outreach and workshops to identify key research needs. Cost-effectively achieving diesel-like efficiency in natural gas engines, while meeting emissions standards, will improve the viability of natural gas fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

For more information about the RFP, please visit.  https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DOE/NREL/NR/RHQ-8-82305/listing.html

 

[1] Bureau of Transportation Statistics, DOT, Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2017, Table 3-1.  https://www.bts.gov/bts-publications/transportation-statistics-annual-reports/tsar-2017 )

[2] Transportation Energy Data Book 36th Edition, ORNL, 2017. Table 3.7 Shares of Highway Vehicle-Miles Traveled by Vehicle Type, 1970-2015.

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FOTW #1046: The Average Household Vehicle Was Driven 10,200 Miles in 2017

The average of all household vehicles driven in 2017 was 10,200 miles. Newer vehicles are typically driven more miles than older vehicles. Vehicles with ages of one to five years all average over 12,000 miles per year. The vehicles that are over nine years old average 7,800 miles per year.

Average annual miles per vehicle by vehicle age in 2017

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National Household Travel Survey website, accessed June 6, 2018.

Fact #1046 Dataset

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Transportation Analysis Fact of the Week #1045

77%-82% of Energy Put into an Electric Car is Used to Move the Car Down the Road

Unlike conventionally fueled vehicles, electric vehicles experience a loss of energy during “refueling,” with an energy loss of about 16% from the wall power to the battery during charging. However, electric vehicles are otherwise highly efficient delivering 60%-65% of the energy from the wall power to the road even before energy is reclaimed through regenerative braking. When energy gains from regenerative braking are included, the amount of energy used for traveling down the road can rise to more than 80% in the EPA-combined city and highway driving cycle.

Energy Requirements for Combined City/Highway Driving - Electric Vehicles

Source: U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fuel Economy Guide website.

View the supporting data for this Fact of the Week.

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EERE Fact of the Week #1044

Transportation Analysis Fact of the Week #1044

August 27, 2018

12-30% of Energy Put into a Conventional Car is Used to Move the Car Down the Road

Not all of the fuel that is put into a car's fuel tank is used to move the car down the road. In fact, only 12-30% of the energy put into a conventional car is use d for that purpose. The rest of the energy is lost to engine inefficiencies or used to power accessories. The amount of energy loss varies depending on the type of driving – city, highway, or combined city and highway. The engine losses, such as exhaust heat and pumping, are higher for city driving than for highway driving. There are no idle losses in highway driving, but losses due to wind resistance and rolling resistance are higher for highway driving than city driving. All in all, there is great potential to improve vehicle fuel efficiencies with advanced technologies, such as hybridization, that address these losses.

Energy Requirements for Combined City/Highway Driving

Source: U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fuel Economy Guide website.

View the supporting data for this Fact of the Week

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EERE #1041: Households Take Fewer Vehicle Trips in 2017

Transportation Analysis Fact of the Week #1041

August 6, 2018

Households Take Fewer Vehicle Trips in 2017

The average number of vehicle trips made by a household in a year’s time was 1,865 in 2017, which translates to an average of 5 household trips per day (one-way).  That is 10% lower than the previous survey year, 2009, and 20% lower than the 1995 survey.  In 2017 there were fewer trips per household for work, shopping, other family/personal errands, and social & recreational purposes.  The rise in internet shopping, telecommuting, and social networking via the internet may be a factor in the decline, as total trips per household has been declining since 1995.

Number of Vehicle Trips per Household by Trip Purpose, 1969-2017

Note: A vehicle trip is defined as one start and end movement from location to location in a single privately-operated vehicle regardless of the number of persons in the vehicle.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National Household Travel Surveywebsite, accessed June 6, 2018.

View the supporting data for this Fact of the Week

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Alternative Fueling Station Locator Overhaul Boasts Improved User Interface

A screenshot showing the updated Station Locator tool interface, featuring a map of the U.S. with multiple colored circles representing various types of alternative fueling station locations.

It’s official—The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) Station Locator has undergone a major makeover. Constant improvement is at the site’s core, which is why the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technology Office is always striving to make the AFDC’s tools easier to use and the data more accessible. The updated Station Locator offers new features and an improved user interface built on the same reliable, comprehensive, and fuel-neutral data that our partners have come to trust.

Some of the notable new features include a sleek look and feel, simplifying the user experience, as well as a bigger map populated with consistent circle icons for each station location and updated colors representing each fuel type. Users will also notice a larger and more detailed view of specific station information.

On the Station Locator home page, there are now two tabs at the top of the map: Find Public Stations and Analyze and Download Data.

The Find Public Stations tab allows users to search for public stations at a specific location, with the option to search for all fuels or just one. The total number of stations that fit the search criteria can be found in the upper right.

The search defaults to public stations and the following fuel-specific criteria:

  • Level 2 and DC fast charging electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE)
  • Propane stations with vehicle-specific fueling services (i.e., “primary” stations)
  • Hydrogen stations with full public access (i.e., “retail” stations)

The Map a Route feature, also available on the Find Public Station tab, shows specified fuel types available along a route between two locations. It also displays search results on the right, sorted by distance from the search location.

The Analyze and Download Data tab allows users to refine their search using filters, broken out into three categories: Location, Fuel, and Station.

To search by Location, users can enter a state or a specific address and limit results within a certain mile radius. To search by Fuel, users can filter by a single fuel or multiple fuel types, and conduct fuel-specific searches, including the following:

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): fill type, vehicle accessibility, and fill pressure
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG): vehicle accessibility
  • EVSE: charging levels, connector types, and networks
  • Ethanol (E85): stations that also offer mid-level ethanol blends
  • Propane: stations with limited vehicle-specific fueling capabilities (i.e., “secondary” stations)
  • Hydrogen: stations with limited public access (i.e., “nonretail” stations)

The Station options allow users to filter for public and/or private stations, planned stations, and by owner type and payment methods. All results display on the right, including counts, filters, and options to download the results or see the results on a map.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) collects and confirms alternative fueling station data through a number of industry sources. To submit a new station for inclusion in the Station Locator, visit the online webform. For multiple station additions or updates, email technicalresponse@icf.com.

The new Station Locator still includes an embed functionality so users can include the tool within their own websites. If you already have the Station Locator embedded on your website, replacing the code with the new version of the embed code is recommended.

Continue to monitor the U.S. Station Locator for new features, including an alternative fuel corridor planning tool.

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Platooning Trucks to Cut Cost and Improve Efficiency

At first glance, platooning doesn’t look like much – just a few tractor-trailers driving down the highway a bit closer together than we’re used to. But, what is actually happening is much more complex and presents the opportunity for significant safety, energy efficiency, and cost benefits. Early studies have shown that 65% of current long-haul truck miles could potentially be platooned, reducing total truck fuel consumption by 4%.

 

 Photo Credit: Department of Transportation

What is Platooning?

So, what is truck platooning? Platooning involves the use of vehicle-to-vehicle communications and sensors, such as cameras and radar, to virtually connect two or more trucks together in a convoy. The virtual link enables all of the vehicles in the platoon to communicate with each other, allowing them to automatically accelerate together, brake together, and enables them to follow each other at a closer distance than is typically possible with unlinked trucks.

The technology detects and reacts to stopped or slow vehicles ahead of the platoon and adjusts as needed when a vehicle cuts in between the trucks in the platoon. With current platooning technology, each truck in the platoon has a human driver responsible for steering and taking over the speed and braking as needed. The driver of the first truck leads the platoon and navigates the route. As the technology improves, there may only be the need for a lead driver, or no human drivers at all.

Why do it?

Truck platooning could provide many benefits. When implemented, platooning can improve safety, increase energy efficiency, and reduce costs.

Truck platooning technology includes automatic braking. The automatic brakes are able to react much faster than a human, improving safety and reducing the likelihood of collisions. Truck platoons also take up less space on the road, and experience fewer short or sudden acceleration and braking events, than unlinked trucks. The trucks travelling closer together at smoother speeds improves traffic flow and boosts the efficiency of delivering goods.

Platooning is also a cost saver. With the trucks driving close together at a constant speed, the lead vehicle cuts through the air and reduces the amount of air hitting the front of, and flowing between, the following vehicles. This is similar to when race cars or cyclists draft off one another in a race. The reduced aerodynamic drag on all of the vehicles in the platoon means that the trucks use less fuel, which reduces operating costs.

The U.S. Army is interested in platooning technologies for the potential to reduce the number of lives at risk in combat areas. Using platooning technologies in military applications could minimize the number of soldiers needed to man convoy vehicles, resulting in a reduced number of soldiers at risk of encountering roadside bombs.

Coordinated Research

The Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office’s (VTO) Energy Efficient Mobility Systems (EEMS) Program coordinates with the U.S Army and the Department of Transportation (DOT) in this shared space to accelerate research and development. DOT’s mission is to serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system. DOT sees platooning as one way to improve the safety of trucking through collision avoidance features. VTO is interested in the potential to improve energy efficiency and cut costs for businesses and consumers through this technology.

VTO’s EEMS Program is investigating the potential impact platooning technology could have on energy use in our transportation system. Recent EEMS research done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory used telematics, or on-board data logging, to estimate the amount of platoonable miles travelled by trucks and found 65% of the miles could be platooned, resulting in a 4% reduction in total truck fuel consumption. Another recent VTO funded study assessed the energy impact of adaptive cruise control and showed that the middle truck in a platoon saves the most at shorter gaps, while the trailing truck saves the most at longer gaps.

To learn more about the Department's work on connected and automated vehicle technologies, visit the Energy Efficient Mobility Systems page on Vehicle Technologies Office website.

 

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists and Engineers—As We Were Inspired

Ten-year-old Leo worked in the Education Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), fitting together snap-on electrical circuits. The boy from a Denver community center was enthralled by the sheer joy of adding buzzers, lights, and switches to the device. Sitting at a desk nearby, Rhielle carefully colored a drawing of a solar panel. “I want to be everything: a singer, waitress, scientist, baker—because baking is a science,” the eight-year-old explained. Everywhere, the room buzzed with energy, as 16 grade schoolers performed experiments and talked to volunteer researchers as part of a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach connecting NREL with our local community.

It reminded me of my own start on the pathway of scientific discovery. As a high school student in Regensburg, Germany, I wondered about this exotic world of test tubes and microscopes—and so visited the office of a distinguished biologist in my hometown university. I asked if he would talk to me—but he was busy at the moment. Instead, this scientist invited me into his laboratory, where I saw first-hand some of his experiments. Later, we chatted and he gave me a basic college text.

He continued to follow me, and mentored me throughout my science studies. I’ve never forgotten that lesson about the importance of sharing science with younger minds. That is why I’m so enthusiastic about STEM learning, and support it passionately at NREL. Whenever we can engage younger students—especially those who may not have had a chance to consider science and engineering as careers—we are building our future.

Throughout the year, NREL actively engages in a range of STEM events. Last May, we held NREL’s 27th annual Junior Solar Sprint and Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Battery Car Competitions on campus, attracting 53 teams from 18 Colorado middle schools. Maybe you’ve been to something like this. Some cars scoot, some fizzle—yet regardless of the finish, everyone gains hands-on experience. Likewise, we co-sponsored the 27th Colorado Science Bowl, giving kids a chance to test their knowledge against other aspiring young researchers. This year the Lambkins from Ft. Collins roared to victory, correctly answering a range of questions across the sciences. We were part of the first Energy Day Colorado this fall, giving academic awards to promising scholars.

Whenever we can, we try to open our doors to prospects. Hannah, a high school sophomore from Boulder, won an NREL-sponsored award at the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair. Sure, she’d already gotten a plaque made from a recycled solar panel and a stipend of $100 for a building cooling project—but we wanted to give her something more. So we arranged a campus tour so that she could talk to researchers in her field. She chatted happily, and afterwards declared, “This place is cool.” Although she has a ways to go, she was clear: because both science and NREL are now positively linked in her mind, she hopes to one day work at the lab. Now that would be cool.

Of course, we won’t know for years whether Hannah will come here, chose another national laboratory, or find a different path. Likewise, we can’t foresee whether Leo will become an electrical engineer or Rhielle seek a career as a chemist. But we do know that 3,688 students who have visited NREL this year, or gone to competitions we’ve run, have all gained exposure to STEM activities. We can’t tell immediately how much impact these encounters have had—although the smiles of students tell us a lot—but speaking from personal experience, we should be confident that this type of inspiration can last a lifetime and will build our future.

Kids enjoying STEM activities at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

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New Initiatives Will Use Supercomputers to Improve Transportation Energy Efficiency

DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office commits $2.5M in FY2018 funds to Big Data and High Performance Computing Initiatives.

Did you know, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories are home to 32 of the fastest supercomputers on Earth? Scientists and researchers at the national labs use these supercomputers to accelerate research by creating models from complex data sets. Now, two new Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) initiatives - High Performance Computing for Mobility (HPC4Mobility) and Big Data Solutions for Mobility – will utilize the computing capabilities of the national labs to find solutions to real-world transportation energy challenges.

These initiatives are part of VTO’s Energy Efficient Mobility Systems (EEMS) Program. The EEMS Program’s mission is to conduct early-stage research at the vehicle, traveler, and system levels to create knowledge, tools, and solutions that increase mobility for individuals and businesses while improving transportation energy efficiency.

Big Data Solutions for Mobility

VTO’s EEMS program has launched a $2M multi-lab research initiative to develop new algorithms and big data tools that can model urban-scale transportation networks using real-world, near real-time data. The initiative will develop the data science approaches and HPC-supported framework for next-generation mobility systems modeling and operational analytics. This will deliver an understanding of transportation system efficiency opportunities that is not attainable with current approaches. Modeling informed by real-time data will allow transportation systems to respond to events such as accidents, weather, and congestion in such a way that optimizes the overall energy use of the system.

The Big Data initiative includes researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory as well as partners from academia and industry.

HPC4Mobility

HPC4Mobility will provide cities, companies, transportation system operators, and others that qualify, access to national laboratory resources, including supercomputing facilities, data-science expertise, and machine-learning capabilities. These partnerships aim to discover opportunities for energy efficiency increases in mobility systems.

This investment supports innovative and scalable HPC4Mobility projects. These projects will uncover opportunities for energy efficiency gains by applying high-performance computing resources to emerging transportation data sets. Initial VTO funding of $500K has been provided to the participating laboratories. Each selected external partner will provide in-kind cost-share contributions.

The first year “seed” projects for HPC4Mobility include:

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will work with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority on HPC-enabled computation of demand models at scale to predict the energy impacts of emerging mobility solutions. Possible applications include modeling the impact of autonomous vehicles on transportation energy use and the hour-by-hour impact of ride hailing services on traffic congestion.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory will work with GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc. on reinforcement learning-based traffic control approaches to optimize energy usage and traffic efficiency.

Sponsored by DOE’s the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the High Performance Computing for Mobility (HPC4Mobility) Program is part of the larger HPC4 Energy Innovation Initiative, a Department-wide effort comprised of, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Fossil Energy, and the Office of Nuclear Energy.

To learn more about the Department's work with industry, academia, and community partners on advanced vehicle technologies, please visit the Vehicle Technologies Office website

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2018 Fuel Economy Guide Helps Consumers Save Money

A photo of a person working at a laptop with the FY18 fuel economy guide showing on the screen.Just in time for the New Year, the 2018 Fuel Economy GuidePDF is now available at FuelEconomy.gov. The guide is published annually by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offers data on current model year (MY) vehicles.

This year’s guide provides fuel economy ratings for more than 1,000 light-duty vehicles, along with projected annual fuel costs and other information for prospective purchasers. The guide, available in an electronic-only formatPDF this year, is designed to help car buyers choose the most fuel-efficient vehicles that fit their needs.

The MY 2018 Fuel Economy Guide includes fuel economy information for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles and details fuel economy leaders across several vehicle classes. Data is updated regularly as manufacturers provide additional information about MY 2018 vehicles.

 

In addition to the guide, fueleconomy.govfeatures other useful tools and information to help car buyers. The website includes “best-in-class” lists across multiple market categories and provides a Top 10 most fuel-efficient vehicle list for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and non-plug in vehicles.

For those in the market for a new or used car, the Find-a-Car feature, as well as the Find-a-Car app, allows users to search for and compare fuel efficiency data by class, make model, and year. EPA data on miles per gallon equivalent and estimated annual fuel cost are available for each vehicle. The Fuel Economy Guide provides this information for all vehicles dating back to 1984.

Users can also track their own personal fuel economy through the My MPG tool or calculate the fuel cost for a road trip. Gas Mileage Tips provide specific savings for driving more efficiently and keeping your car in shape.  

The MY 2018 Fuel Economy Guide is only available electronically (PDF). With the MY 2018 Fuel Economy Guide and FuelEconomy.gov, consumers have the tools and data available to save money on fuel, whether they are shopping for a new vehicle or making the most out of their current one. 

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