DOE Doles out Millions for Natural Gas Engine Research


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $4 million to support three new cost-shared research projects focused on medium- and heavy-duty, on-road natural gas engines, as well as $3 million to support two new cost-shared research projects for advancing fluid power systems for off-road vehicles. These five projects are also complemented by $5 million for early-stage research at the DOE’s National Laboratories.

With abundant domestic supplies, the U.S. could increase energy security from using low-cost natural gas as an alternative to other energy sources for transporting goods, the DOE explains. Cost-effectively achieving diesel-like efficiency in natural gas engines – while meeting current and future emissions standards – will improve the affordability of natural gas-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, according to the agency.

Recipients of the three new cost-shared projects are as follows:

  • Colorado State University will receive $1.2 million to research ultra-low-emissions, high-efficiency heavy-duty natural gas engines with optimized combustion chamber designs;
  • The University of Houston will receive $2 million to develop a new class of catalysts with low levels of precious metals for natural gas engine emissions control; and
  • The University of Minnesota will receive $1.1 million to advance low-temperature combustion technologies for higher-efficiency natural gas engines.

In addition, the DOE is supporting $3 million in early-stage research among several National Laboratories. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are researching active and durable catalysts for low-temperature methane oxidation to enable efficient compressed natural gas (CNG) engines. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory, ORNL and Sandia National Laboratories are working collaboratively to research fundamental in-cylinder and emissions-control advancements for higher-efficiency medium- and heavy-duty natural gas engines.

According to the DOE, fluid power systems in off-road vehicles play an important role in farming and construction vehicles such as backhoes, excavators and plows. To improve the energy efficiency of these vehicles that use hydraulic actuators for tasks such as moving, lifting and plowing, the DOE has selected two new cost-shared projects:

  • Purdue University will receive $1.5 million to research a new architecture for fluid power systems in off-road vehicles to significantly reduce power losses and lower energy consumption by 70%; and
  • The University of Minnesota will receive $1.4 million to research a variable displacement motor for the off-highway market to reduce fuel consumption by 30% while increasing power density.

The agency is also supporting $2 million in early-stage research on mobile fluid power systems. ANL, ORNL and PNNL are developing high-performance fluid additives and coatings to improve the efficiency, durability and environmental compatibility of off-road hydraulic fluids and components.

The DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in early-stage research to spur private-sector research, development and commercialization of more energy efficient and affordable transportation technologies to increase energy security and economic growth.

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