NREL works toward developing hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs); moving them from research and development to the marketplace. The laboratory began investigating HEV technologies more than a decade ago. In the past few years several commercial HEV models, which are powered simultaneously by batteries and fuel, have taken their place in the mainstream automobile market. More recently, HEV drivetrains have been used successfully in heavy-duty trucks, buses, and military vehicles.
NREL is also working to move HEV technology a step farther to plug-in hybrids that can "plug in" to store electricity and operate as clean, low-cost vehicles for most of their normal daily mileage. Taking that still a step further, NREL researchers are promoting development of "renewable communities" that would unite plug-in hybrids, zero-energy homes, and the full range of NREL-developed renewable energy technologies as a model for the future.
NREL is also actively researching various aspects of fuel cells and fuel cell vehicles. Fuel-cell vehicles will likely be much like hybrid vehicles with fuel cells instead of gasoline or diesel engines. So NREL's leadership role in developing this transportation technology of the future shares much with its research on hybrids, to mutual benefit of both.
The transportation research conducted at NREL is funded by DOE's Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. This work crosscuts and supports many NREL programs and is led by the Center for Transportation Technologies and Systems.