Unlike the heavy gas-guzzlers of yesteryear, many newer vehicles roll off the today’s production lines with much lighter frames and cleaner, higher-performing engines. Some vehicles don’t even require fuel— just a station where they can plug in and charge.
PNNL is driving the research community in investigating high-performing, smart, and lighter-weight materials to replace the cast iron and steel components and less-efficient engines of the past. DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office primarily manages vehicle technology research at PNNL. Its multi-faceted mission includes increasing the understanding of vehicle materials; improving properties such as strength and ductility; improving manufacturing processes; and developing alloys of advanced materials.
PNNL materials scientists, engineers, chemists and others help to meet this mission through expertise in Solid Phase Processing. Using capabilities that allow the joining or extrusion of a variety of alloys, scientists are creating revolutionary new materials and products with unprecedented ductility and strength for lighter-weight vehicle components.
Leadership in vehicle research
PNNL leads DOE’s Lightweight Materials Consortium, a partnership among 11 national laboratories that brings together industry with the labs’ expertise and capabilities. The goal—to accelerate innovation and adoption of new light-weighting technologies for on-highway vehicles.
The lab’s research team also focuses on developing affordable, scalable and sustainable biofuels in tandem with efficient, low-emission vehicle engines. As part of DOE’s Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines Initiative, PNNL collaborates with eight national lab partners to research and create fuels and lubricants toward maximum internal combustion performance and efficiency.
PNNL research in catalysis explores new fuel cells and takes aim at eliminating harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. This work includes the study of catalysts that minimize the carbon footprint often left by vehicle emissions.
PNNL’s battery researchers are making strides in vehicle energy storage via leadership in the Battery500 Consortium. This collaboration partners four DOE national laboratories with industry and academia to develop lithium-ion batteries with more than double the specific energy in current electric vehicle batteries, with improved reliability, safety, and cost. PNNL electrification experts are also developing smart charging technologies that bring ease to the adoption of plug-in vehicles—without having an impact on the electric grid.
One day, the car that carries your family will be even more lightweight, high-performing, cleaner, and smarter. The heavy, all-steel sedans from days gone by will be but a scrap yard memory compared to the lighter—and cleaner—cars on the road ahead.