Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines

Boosting vehicle efficiency, performance, and affordability


As part of the Co-Optima initiative, PNNL and their collaborators are investigating fuel combinations to boost vehicle efficiency and performance.

The fuels of yesteryear, and even now, are no match for the sophisticated engines that come off today’s automotive production lines. The chemical properties within these fuels limit vehicle performance and impact efficiency.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office have banded together to create the Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines initiative—or Co-Optima. Co-Optima, a multi-year initiative, was launched in 2015 and brings together top experts and capabilities from nine national laboratories, along with more than 20 university and industry partners. The purpose is to investigate combinations of fuels and engine designs that can work together to boost efficiency, performance, and affordability, while limiting emissions.

Much of the Co-Optima research focuses on blendstocks—combinations of materials that are blended to make a fuel—that can be produced from domestic resources. These resources include renewable and non-food biomass, such as forestry and agricultural waste, as well as petroleum and natural gas.

PNNL role in Co-Optima

PNNL has helped lead efforts to identify higher performing biomass-derived blendstocks by developing structure-property relationships, including complex blending relationships.

The PNNL team also led development of a report detailing an evaluation of 400 biomass-derived samples and identified the top 10 candidates that could be blended with petroleum fuel to boost turbo-charged engine performance. The study constituted the first systematic assessment of a broad range of mixtures across many chemical families for use as blendstocks.

Other national laboratory partners participating in the Co-Optima initiative include National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Argonne, Idaho, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Sandia National Laboratories.


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