NREL Debuts Automated Electric Shuttle Vehicle

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has introduced an automated electric vehicle in its employee shuttle fleet.

Designed to cover short distances and predefined routes, the fully electric EasyMile EZ10 shuttle took its inaugural ride on Monday, transporting staff and visitors around NREL’s South Table Mountain campus in Colorado after a dedication ceremony marking its first day of operation.

The automated vehicle serves as one of two circulator shuttles primarily transporting staff to and from the parking garage during peak hours. For the first year, onboard vehicle stewards from MV Transportation, the lab’s shuttle service subcontractor, will monitor vehicle operations to ensure safety.

The shuttle, which can carry up to 12 passengers, is designed to travel along a pre-programmed route. It is equipped with a range of sensors and an intelligent vehicle system to detect obstacles and avoid collisions. Real-time data processing allows the driverless vehicle system to decide how to behave as it progresses along the road.

NREL will collect and analyze vehicle and charging system operational data to help researchers better understand associated energy use, charging and energy storage needs, and autonomous systems operation and control.

“The results of our data analysis effort will help inform the design and optimization of intelligent energy management systems onboard these types of vehicles – such as managed wireless charging or predictive route-based propulsion system control,” says Kevin Walkowicz, manager of NREL’s Advanced Vehicles and Fueling Infrastructure Group.

NREL will also explore ways in which these systems can enable intelligent load management for the entire campus in scenarios with a high concentration of energy coming from renewables or behind-the-meter energy storage.

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