Transportation Systems

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is accelerating the pace of research and development (R&D) for efficient, safe, secure, and environmentally friendly transportation. By leveraging the National Transportation Research Center (NTRC) – the Department of Energy's (DOE's) only dedicated user facility focused on transportation – our researchers identify new materials for next-generation systems; provide decision-making tools and intelligent technologies for secure, efficient movement of passengers and freight; and create economic opportunity for the nation by improving the energy efficiency of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles.

Next Generation Research

Electrification and fast wired and wireless charging

Early-stage technologies to speed deployment of electric vehicles, including extreme fast charging; advanced batteries, fuel cells, electric machinery, and power electronics; and roll-to-roll technologies.

Data science, automated technologies, and vehicle cybersecurity

Unique security expertise to detect and prevent cyberintrusions; advanced sensors, controls, algorithms, and other technologies to safely and efficiently guide automated and connected vehicles; and analysis of transportation fuel economy and fleets.

Materials for future vehicles

Durable, cost-effective, lightweight materials and advanced processes for next-generation vehicles, including high-temperature alloys for engines, advancements in carbon fiber, 3D printing, and advanced materials joining techniques.

Fuels, engines, and emissions research

Co-optimization of advanced fuels and engines, low-temperature catalysts, and emissions controls; breakthroughs in biofuels production; and integration of vehicle systems.

DOE's Most Comprehensive Transportation R&D Facilities

National Transportation Research Facility

DOE's only designated user facility focused on transportation R&D and a portal to world-class science capabilities across ORNL.




Carbon Fiber Technology Facility

CFTF is developing methods using low-cost feedstocks to assist industry in overcoming the barriers of carbon fiber production cost, scalability of processes, and development of fiber-reinforced polymer composites for end use.



Impacts and Partnerships

  • Using neutrons at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor and Spallation Neutron Source to analyze the spray inside fuel injectors; seeking the sources of efficiency-robbing cavitation. Partner: General Motors.
  • Using Titan, the nation's fastest supercomputer, to study combustion by simulating thousands of engine cycles with speed and accuracy. Partners: Ford Motor Company, General Electric, and Convergent Science.
  • Applying characterization, modeling, and simulation capabilities to accelerate the design of a new traction power inverter for the 2016 Chevy Volt. Partner: Delphi.
  • Developing new high-temperature aluminum alloys for automotive cylinder heads using materials characterization expertise and high-performance computing. Partners: FCA US LLC, Nemak.
  • Using analytical chemistry and materials science to develop new catalyst technologies that operate effectively in the low-temperature exhaust from next-generation engines.


Research Highlights

ORNL demonstrates 120-kilowatt wireless charging for vehicles

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated a 120-kilowatt wireless charging system for vehicles—providing six times the power of previous ORNL technology and a big step toward charging times that rival the speed and convenience of a gas...

SmartTruck steps up simulations for certification by computation

Long-haul tractor trailers, often referred to as “18-wheelers,” transport everything from household goods to supermarket foodstuffs across the United States every year. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, these trucks moved more than 10 billion tons of goods—70.6...

Building AMIE’s brain: EESR researchers take on home, vehicle energy challenges

The construction and demonstration of the Additive Manufacturing + Integrated Energy (AMIE) project was a unique opportunity to showcase Oak Ridge National Laboratory expertise and collaboration in many areas, including 3D printing and vehicle and residential technologies. The...