Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO)
The Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) leads DOE efforts to reduce petroleum use and the environmental impact of highway transportation through research, development, and deployment of innovative technologies including electric vehicles, batteries, advanced combustion engines, lightweight materials, and alternative fuels. VTO also supports innovation through testing and validation of new technologies before they are used in actual vehicles. The majority of the subprogram’s funds are presently geared towards batteries and electric drive technologies followed by advanced combustion engines and lightweighting technologies.
VTO requested $444 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 to support its technology priorities; however, Congress is expected to authorize $310 million -- only a slight increase over the $280 million the office received in FY 2015 -- in the year-end Omnibus Appropriations Bill that the Senate will vote on Friday. While the following budget figures will be adjusted downward accordingly, VTO plans to invest in these specific transportation initiatives:
- The EV Everywhere Grand Challenge ($253 million), which seeks to enable the U.S. to produce a wide array of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) models. This funding includes $105 million for battery technology R&D to develop the technologies necessary to reduce modeled high-volume battery costs by 60% by 2022.
- New awards for a “SuperTruck II” ($40 million) initiative to research, develop, and demonstrate a suite of technologies with the goal to improve the freight hauling efficiency of heavy-duty Class 8 vehicles by 100 percent by 2020, including projects in efficiency and emission control, advanced transmissions and hybridization and waste energy recovery.
- Deploy lightweight materials and manufacturing processes for automotive use with a $30 million funding opportunity in support of the Administration’s Materials Genome Initiative. The focus will be on advanced materials manufacturing R&D and the development of high strength, high formability, corrosion resistant, and low cost magnesium sheet alloys for vehicle light weighting.
VTO funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) are announced through the EERE Funding Exchange.
Special Focus on Vehicle Battery Technology
VTO has presided over and facilitated many major advancements in battery technology to be deployed in vehicles throughout the U.S. Indeed, Ford, Chevrolet, BMW, and Mercedes are using lithium-ion battery technologies developed under VTO-supported projects. VTO fosters these innovations through three programs that develop public-private partnerships and target every phase of technological development:
- The Battery Materials Research (BMR) Program—formerly the Exploratory Battery Materials Research Program—invests in fundamental research with the potential of achieving significant breakthroughs including innovative, new battery chemistries. The next RFPs for BMR are expected this November and then again next year.
- The Applied Battery Research (ABR) Program takes promising ideas developed in BMR and puts them into a laboratory for testing and validation. The ABR Program involves close coordination between industry and the DOE National Laboratories. ABR only issues requests for proposals (RFPs) every three years with the next round expected in FY 2018.
- The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (ABC), which is funded by DOE and industry, takes proven concepts in ABR and develops prototypes for major carmakers. Most of the technologies presently in the pipeline at ABC are incremental improvements to lithium-ion batteries.