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. 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. It also researches how new petroleum-based fuels affect advanced combustion systems and how lubricants can improve the efficiency of vehicles currently on the road.
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 fuels' effects on combustion: Improve understanding of how fuels from new sources can affect advanced combustion systems.
- Research lubricants: Works to develop lubricants that can improve the fuel economy of vehicles in the current fleet.
- Research natural gas: Works to support the development of natural gas engines and renewable natural gas projects.
- 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.
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
The research activities in alternative fuels fall under the Fuel and Lubricant Technologies subprogram. As described in the Fuel & Lubricant Technologies Annual Report, the subprogram's major research goals are:
- By 2015, expand operational range of low-temperature advanced combustion engines to meet 75 percent of the light-duty Federal Test Procedure for emissions
- By 2015, demonstrate cost effective lubricant that can result in two percent fuel economy improvement