US: DOE lab to change the future of cars image

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the US Department of Energy’s biggest science facility, researching anything from neutron science to national security. So, no wonder that in its’ vast and sometimes secretive sectors, the next advances in the automotive industry are developed.

Located in the rolling Tennessee hills and forests, the labs are hard at work to further enhance the automotive industry and diminish US dependence on imported fuel. With that in mind, we can imagine the secretive lab has been working with the auto sector as far back as the first energy crisis in the 1970s. In the mean time, the Oak Ridge facility helped develop, research and produce materials, fuels and systems that can be found now in billions of cars.

“Our goal is to get these technologies into the world so the taxpayers benefit,” says Madhu Chinthavali, team leader of Oak Ridge’s power electronics group. “Show the technologies to automakers and let them adapt it to their needs.”

Among the projects currently being developed – and that we have unrestricted access to – are one that researches an oil additive that could lower any vehicle’s fuel consumption by 2% (it’s not much, but cumulated generates billions in savings); one that seeks to lower carbon fiber production costs so that any vehicle could use the very strong and equally light material; or one that focuses on electric charging systems, aiming to one day eliminate the hefty (both in weight and price) battery packs of today.