Vehicle transportation accounts for 21-23% of global energy use and about two-thirds of oil consumption. Tailpipe emissions are a significant public health hazard, especially in densely populated areas. Additionally, many countries face significant challenges with energy security as petroleum consumption exceeds domestic production.
Carbon dioxide, a primary byproduct of hydrocarbon combustion in engines, is known to be a greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming. CO2 emissions from vehicles are expected to increase substantially (double or quadruple) by 2050 as vehicle sales around the world continue to increase. Given that CO2 has a long atmospheric lifetime, emissions from vehicles in San Francisco have just as much impact as emissions from vehicles in New Delhi, or Beijing, or anywhere in the world. Transportation related CO2 emissions are projected to rise only slightly in the United States and Europe, thus the majority of growth will come from rapidly growing developing nations, like India and China. The vehicle powertrain research at Berkeley Lab aims to address this problem on a global scale by developing technology solutions which are effective not only in the United States, but are also mindful of the unique challenges and opportunities for vehicles in the developing world.
Moves-Lab, formerly known as Berkeley Lab's vehicle powertrain research program, conducts research spanning from the scale of individual vehicle components through to collections of large numbers of vehicles interacting with infrastructure systems such as the electricity grid or the transportation system. Moves-Lab component level research includes high fidelity simulation and complementing experiments to develop improved vehicle powertrain component technologies (e.g. low temperature combustion engines). Moves-Lab research in the area of many vehicles interacting with infrastructure systems centers around applications of the Vehicle-to-Grid Simulator (V2G-Sim), which was developed by researchers at Moves-Lab. Although V2G-Sim focuses on vehicle-grid interactions, at its core is a framework that enables detailed simulation of many individual vehicles on many individual trips, while streamlining the process of providing initialization variables for each vehicle and enabling computational efficiency to allow large numbers of vehicles to be simulated with limited computing resources.
Aside from these research areas, Berkeley Lab has well established research programs in battery technologies and electricity grid integration.
Good question! It's not the train that engineers drive.
However, a train has a powertrain, and another kind of engineer is needed to design it.
A powertrain is a collection of systems that convert stored energy into motion to get you places. Traditionally, it refers to an engine, transmission, differential and wheels. However, modern powertrains can have more sophisticated engines, a large battery pack, a motor and/or generator and a connection to the electricity grid, and of course, a very complex control system to run the show. Modern powertrain research spans many disciplines, from thermodynamics to electrochemistry to the design of efficient and reliable gears, and is addressing some of the world's most pressing challenges related to energy and harmful emissions, all while ensuring you can get from Point A to Point B (and Point C on the weekends).