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Vehicle Systems

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s advanced vehicle systems research program provides key expertise in the understanding, simulation, and integration of advanced vehicle technologies to offer new insight on the potential benefits for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and other advanced powertrain vehicles.

The program draws upon ORNL expertise in advanced engine technologies, advanced power electronics and electric machines, and laboratory-to-roadside testing, evaluation, modeling, and analysis to meet the research needs of the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office and to support public decision making regarding the benefits of adopting advanced energy efficient transportation technologies.

The Vehicle Systems Integration (VSI) Laboratory offers unique capabilities to test, simulate, and evaluate engines, electric motors, and transmissions in conventional and hybrid powertrain configurations for vehicles ranging from light-duty cars to Class 8 trucks. The VSI Lab is changing the pace of powertrain development by performing prototype research and characterization of advanced systems and hardware components.

The lab features “X”-in-the-loop hardware evaluation of powertrain components and/or subsystems in virtual vehicle environments, where “X” represents any experimental component or subsystem. It is capable of accommodating a range of platforms from advanced light-duty vehicles to hybridized Class 8 powertrains with the goals of improving overall system efficiency and reducing emissions. Coupling this data-rich asset with the ORNL's complementary capabilities in analysis, modeling, simulation, and visualization represents a powerful resource for users.

Through the VSI Lab’s industry CRADA partner, Meritor Inc., the lab is able to bridge modeling/simulation/analysis and controls development of prototype hardware in transient operation of the Meritor Class 8 tractor drivetrain. Other significant collaborations with the VSI Lab include the Department of EnergyEnvironmental Protection Agency, the International Council on Clean TransportationEaton CorporationCalifornia Air Resources BoardNational Renewable Energy LaboratoryArgonne National Laboratory, and SAE International.


Hybrid Powertrain X-in-the-loop Architecture

The VSI Lab features an “X”-in-the-loop platform to test a powertrain component or subsystem in a virtual vehicle environment. For instance, a hybrid drive system commissioned in the VSI Powertrain Test Cell would comprise:

Unit Under Test

  • Engine with or without corresponding emission aftertreatment
  • Hybrid transmission including necessary electric machines and power electronics

Real-time Virtual Environment

  • Modeling of driveline and vehicle characteristics
  • Modeling of energy storage system with representative battery management controls


  • Energy storage system emulator
  • Twin 500kW dynamometers through summing gearbox