As transportation accounts for two-thirds of the nearly $1 billion the U.S. spends daily on foreign oil, it is vital to increase our use of alternative fuels. Increasing the fuels available to drivers reduces price volatility, supports domestic industries, and increases environmental sustainability. The DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center provides basic information on alternative fuels, including Biodiesel, Ethanol, Natural Gas, Propane, and Hydrogen. It also provides information on stations that sell alternative fuels and tax credits and other incentives for using alternative fuels. The Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) supports research to improve how vehicles use these many of these fuels in the future, as well as activities to increase their availability today.
The Vehicle Technologies Office's Contribution
Reaching VTO’s goals will help the country meet the Renewable Fuel Standard’s goals for use of biofuels in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. These goals require the use of as much as 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels annually by 2022.
To reach these goals, VTO supports activities to:
- Research biofuels and their effects on combustion: Works to determine the impact of biofuels’ properties on engines’ efficiency, performance, and emissions. Activities include examining ways to increase alternative fuel vehicles’ fuel economy, investigating the potential effects of upcoming blends, and improving the quality of current and future biofuel blends, especially biodiesel and E85.
- Research natural gas: Works to support the development of natural gas engines and renewable natural gas projects.
- Help regulated fleets use alternative fuels: VTO works with covered (mainly state and utility fleets) under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, while the Federal Energy Management Program works with federal fleets.
- Test alternative fuel vehicles: VTO collects on-road and laboratory data to better understand how alternative fuel vehicles function in a variety of conditions.
- Deploy alternative fuels: The Clean Cities program works with nearly 100 local coalitions across the country to help fleets choose which alternative fuels or a combination thereof will best meet their needs and prepare communities for increasing numbers of alternative fuel vehicles.
- Provide tools through the Alternative Fuels Data Center: the Laws and Incentive database, which includes information on state and federal tax credits; the Alternative Fueling Station Locator, listing more 15,000 the public and private stations across all alternative fuels, as well as the ability to search for stations along a mapped route; and the Light-Duty Vehicle Search and the Heavy-Duty Vehicle and Engine Search to look up alternative fuel vehicles.
To accomplish these goals, VTO collaborates with national laboratories, universities, industry, and community partners.
Research activities in alternative fuels work with:
- the U.S. Drive Partnership, an industry partnership focusing on light-duty vehicles
- 21st Century Truck Partnership, an industry partnership to dramatically increase heavy-duty vehicle fuel economy while continuing emissions reduction.
- VTO’s Advanced Combustion Engine research, to look at the interaction between alternative fuels and advanced internal combustion engines
- The Bioenergy Office (which focuses on production of biofuels) and Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program (which focuses on the use of hydrogen) to maximize collaboration and avoid duplication of effort
- The Environmental Protection Agency to provide data for certain rulemakings
Activities to increase the use of alternative fuel vehicles are carried out with a variety of partners:
- National Clean Fleets Partnership works to reduce petroleum use in large commercial fleets
- Clean Cities-National Parks Initiative works to reduce petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions in transportation at the National Parks
The research activities in alternative fuels fall under the Fuel and Lubricant Technologies subprogram and are described in the Fuel & Lubricant Technologies Annual Report.
VTO’s major deployment goals for alternative fuels are:
- EPAct fleets: Have all covered vehicle fleets acquire alternative fuel vehicles or reduce petroleum use equal to purchasing 75 percent of their new vehicles as alternative fuel vehicles
- Clean Cities: Combined with other petroleum reduction strategies, reduce petroleum use in transportation in the United States by 2.5 billion gallons a year in 2025.