Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 28% of U.S. emissions and 15% globally. It is one of several major sectors that contribute to climate change. Because liquid fuels are so well suited for powering cars, trucks, boats and aircraft, transportation is historically reliant on oil.

We have a societal opportunity to deflect the planet’s climate trajectory by converting cars, and as much as possible trucks, ships, and planes to use renewable, decarbonized energy sources. However, this transition may not be occurring at a rate and scale sufficient to avoid irreversible environmental damage and associated economic and public health losses. Our goal: replace fossil-fuel-based mobility with Flexible, Affordable, and Sustainable Transportation (FAST).

Various transportation energy projects at U-M examine strategies — both technology options and public policies — for addressing emissions from the sector. Grounded in natural sciences and engineering, the research also draws on economics, other social sciences and the history of technology and policy. The goal is to inform industry, policymakers and the public about cost-effective ways to mitigate mobile source CO₂ emissions globally, nationally and regionally.

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The above graphic contains a representative sample of transportation energy faculty on U-M’s campus. To dive deeper into faculty research and specializations, visit our Faculty Affiliate index.

Beginning with the University’s North Campus, the University of Michigan Electrify M Living Laboratory (pictured below) will enable flexible electric vehicle fast charging through novel designs and management of on-site battery storage, the local electric grid, and renewable energy sources. It will repurpose aged electric vehicle battery packs for cost-effective energy storage to smooth out electric vehicle charging loads, manage building electricity demands in concert with the needs of electric vehicle charging and how much energy wind and solar are providing, and optimize the use of DC fast-chargers for bus fleet applications. Useful business metrics such as cost per useful mile traveled and greenhouse gas emissions avoided will be created for fleet users.

In addition to reducing the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Electrify M Living Laboratory will serve engineering students and faculty, providing data in the electric power grid and transportation areas.  

To learn more about ElectrifyM, contact Energy Institute Director Anna Stefanopoulou.

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The Battery Fabrication and Characterization User Facility, or Battery Lab, works with the industrial and academic energy storage user community to prototype, test and analyze batteries and the materials that go into them. The Battery Lab brings together materials scientists and engineers, as well as suppliers and manufacturers, to ease a bottleneck in battery development near the nation’s automotive capital. The lab is available for any company or researcher to use. The Energy Institute is proud to host the facility, a safe zone for IP-protected discovery and scale-up of next-generation batteries. The Battery Lab was developed by U-M in cooperation with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Ford Motor Company.

The Energy Storage Economics Project examines the economic life cycle of the electric vehicle battery and materials used in its assembly. The lithium ion battery is the core power supply of the electrified vehicle. Since 2010, specifications have changed, cell production has grown at double-digit rates, and the energy density, i.e., the capacity for range of travel on a single charge, has increased in step with innovation in battery materials. Electric vehicle batteries contain copper, manganese, nickel, lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), and cobalt, and this project tracks the relationship between these materials, EV prices, global CO2 emissions, and increasing vehicle automation. The research is conducted in partnership between Energy Institute Senior Economist and Associate Director Ellen Hughes-Cromwick and U-M students.

Another key transportation research activity is the annual Conference on Transportation, Economics, Energy and the Environment (TE3). Hosted here at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, this event brings international experts together to engage top academics with leading members of the manufacturing, energy and public policy communities in high-level, economically grounded discussions about the future of transportation.

Using a nationally representative sample of U.S. households, the U-M Energy Survey probes consumer attitudes and beliefs about energy at a deep level, independently of particular sources or forms of energy. Much of its analysis focuses on the relationship between energy, transportation, and consumer decision-making. By eliciting public perceptions regarding key facets of energy including affordability, reliability and environmental impact, it generates valuable research data. A collaboration between the U-M Energy Institute (UMEI) and Institute for Social Research (ISR), the Energy Survey is administered as a quarterly rider added to ISR’s Surveys of Consumers, the world-renowned survey of consumer attitudes that forms the basis for the Index of Consumer Expectations, which is a component of the Index of Leading Economic Indicators issued monthly by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The U-M Automotive Research Center’s mission is to develop simulation and modeling tools that help discover and assess critical ground vehicle technologies. The ARC also trains the future workforce that has a comprehensive understanding of the technical tools developed at the ARC and the ability to further develop and apply those tools to multi-disciplinary problems that are relevant to both the Army and industry.The center employs extensive experimental facilities for the development and validation of multi-physics models in the areas of energy conversion and management of power within vehicles, as well as occupant safety. The models and simulations used are all accompanied by analytical tools that assess optimality, reliability, survivability and mobility in harsh environments, with constrained fuel supplies, over a variety of terrains and missions.