The U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Office develops and deploys efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will enable America to use less petroleum. These technologies will provide Americans with greater freedom of mobility and energy security, while lowering costs and reducing impacts on the environment.
What We Do
We collaborate with industry leaders through partnerships like U.S. DRIVE and 21st Century Truck, to develop and deploy advanced vehicle technologies, including highly efficient combustion engines, lightweight materials, and electric drive vehicles. These technologies can lead to significant fuel economy improvements and replace oil with domestic fuels, setting the foundation for clean, efficient, sustainable, and cost-competitive vehicles.
Why It Matters
Improving vehicle efficiency and moving away from petroleum-based fuels is essential to reducing consumers' fuel costs, supporting domestic industry, minimizing pollution, and increasing energy security. Americans spend about $1 billion a day to import oil, with transportation accounting for more than two-thirds of this use. In 2012, oil dependence cost the U.S. $171 billion in lost potential GDP (Chp 1, Fig 1.4). In addition, transportation accounts for almost 30 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.
Our research and development enables vehicle manufacturers to adopt new, efficient technologies. Reducing fuel consumption by 50 percent in light duty vehicles would eliminate the use of 2.2 million barrels of oil a day, more than we import from any country besides Canada. Moreover, it would eliminate 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions overall, slightly less than the emissions from the entire United States in 2010. Similarly, increasing fuel efficiency by 50 percent in the country's heavy truck fleet would reduce oil use by 0.8 million barrels a day, based on current consumption.
- Saving You Money While Meeting Transportation Needs
Purchasing a vehicle with better fuel economy can save consumers and businesses a substantial amount over the lifetime of the vehicle. The average consumer spends more than $2700 a year on gas and oil for their vehicle (Chp 8, Table 4). For example, a consumer who purchases a vehicle that gets 30 miles to the gallon instead of 20 miles to the gallon will spend about half as much on fuel, saving more than $800 a year. The research and development we do in collaboration with industry and our national laboratories will maintain the safety, performance, and power of today's vehicles while allowing for significant increases in fuel economy.
- Supporting the U.S. Economy
Helping consumers spend less on imported fuel means that they have more money to reinvest in the American economy. Reducing the fuel expenses of heavy-duty vehicles, such as long-haul trucks and transit buses, can lower the costs of the companies running these vehicles to do business. These savings can increase domestic companies' competitiveness and potentially lower prices for consumers.
Supporting domestic manufacturing of efficient and advanced vehicles helps continue America's long history of automotive production and offers great promise for the future. Through the 2008 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we invested $2.7 billion in manufacturing and deployment of advanced technology and alternative fuel vehicles.
- Improving Our Energy Security
Improving efficiency and replacing oil with domestic alternative fuels helps reduce our reliance on imported petroleum. This improves the country's resiliency against oil price shocks and decreases the amount of money the U.S. sends abroad. While the number of vehicles in the U.S. is expected to remain steady, the number of vehicles worldwide is expected to increase from one billion now to more than two billion by 2040, according to Argonne National Laboratory's VISION model. As worldwide demand for oil rises, these technologies will help provide Americans with greater freedom of mobility while increasing our energy security.
- Protecting the Public Health and the Environment
Transportation accounts for 28% of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, 59% of the nitrogen oxide emissions, and 23% of volatile organic compounds, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These emissions contribute to smog, acid rain, haze, and global climate change. Reducing emissions from vehicles through efficient and clean technologies can substantially contribute to lowering these emissions, improving public health and protecting global ecosystems.