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Co-Optimized Fuel-Engine Systems to Transform Our Nation’s Vehicles

May 17, 2016
The critical need to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector has prompted great interest in the advancement of clean energy technologies. The President’s Climate Action Plan calls for the accelerated development of cost-competitive, advanced biofuels that will reduce the carbon footprint from transportation and for new fuel economy standards to reduce emissions and improve vehicle efficiency. Both goals present a significant challenge—but also great opportunity.

Rather than address these goals separately, why not design engines that better accommodate next-generation fuels? The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) recent Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines Initiative (Co-Optima) seeks to accomplish just that by combining previously independent areas of biofuels and engine-combustion research and development to design new fuels and engines that are co-optimized—designed in tandem to maximize vehicle performance and carbon efficiency. This initiative builds upon decades of remarkable advances in both fuels and engines to drive what could be the next automotive revolution.

This project brings together two technology development offices within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and nine national laboratories, as well as numerous industry, government, and academic partners to help transform our nation’s fuels and vehicles. In EERE, the Vehicle Technologies Office is working with national laboratory partners to develop advanced combustion technologies that can maximize vehicle performance and improve fuel efficiency, leading to significantly greater fuel economy and less engine-out pollutants than current engines. On the fuels front, the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is working to develop and transform renewable biomass resources into commercially viable, high-performance biofuels. BETO will be supporting the development of biofuels that are compatible with advanced engines, with a specific focus on fuel characteristics that enable improved combustion performance.

Changing the fuel and engine options for vehicles on the road will be a considerable undertaking. However, the initiative’s focused and coordinated approach will accelerate the widespread deployment of significantly improved fuels and vehicles and seeks to realize the value proposition across the supply chain. Ultimately, these efforts will encourage the creation of a new clean transportation sector.