Argonne National Laboratory

Prospective Benefits Assessments of Vehicle Technologies

Prospective Benefits Assessments of Vehicle Technologies


Argonne National Laboratory assesses the potential benefits from the technologies being developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) and FuelCell Technologies Office (FCTO). These assessments provide the potential future reductions in petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the U.S. on-road fleet due to successful development and commercialization of VTO technologies.

This benefit assessment links vehicle component and subsystem costs and performance metrics to vehicle price and fuel economy, to vehicle markets, and on-road use, and encompasses the entire U.S. on-road vehicle stock.


Starting with input assumptions about vehicle components from VTO  and FCTO program managers, and from Argonne and industry experts,  vehicles with advanced technologies are numerically simulated using Argonne’s Autonomie toolkit (for light-duty vehicles) or analyzed using the Heavy Truck Energy Balance model (medium- and heavy-duty trucks). Inputs are defined for the cost and other characteristics of future engines, electric traction drive systems, batteries, fuel cells, hydrogen storage, lightweight materials, improved lubricants and other vehicle technologies. From vehicle characteristics and assumptions about future fuel prices, the future market penetration of advanced-technology vehicles is modeled using vehicle choice models. The results of these are used in stock models such as Argonne’s VISION model to estimate national level fuel use and GHG emissions, based on life-cycle modeling results from the Argonne's Life-Cycle Analysis tool, GREET.  In addition, fuel savings are attributed to FCTO technologies and to VTO technical areas, including:

  • Batteries and electric drive technologies
  • Advanced combustion engine research and development
  • Materials technology
  • Fuel and lubricant technology

Argonne also estimates the levelized cost of ownership of advanced technology vehicles and how the cost of driving can be reduced if VTO and FCTO technology programs are successful in reducing costs and increasing energy efficiency and performance of various vehicle components and subsystems.Tom Stephens coordinates this effort, from collecting and reviewing inputs and assumptions, checking vehicle modeling results, supervising market penetration modeling, and analyzing the overall projected fuel use and GHG emissions by the future stock of vehicles on the road in the U.S. to the year 2050.

Scenarios are developed that represent a future in which VTO-supported vehicle technologies are successfully deployed and alternatively, “base case” that represents a future, with no further VTO technology development. The difference between these scenarios gives an estimate of the overall benefit of the VTO program.

In previous years, benefits assessments for VTO light and heavy duty vehicle technologies has provided the basis for reporting the value of the VTO Program as required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. This analysis is often referred to as “GPRA benefits analysis,” however, the results of this analysis are also used by VTO to address a wide range of related questions. VTO has also used results of this analysis in setting technical cost and performance targets for vehicle technologies. More generally, they proved VTO the potential economic, environmental and security benefits that can come from achieving program goals, and VTO has used these benefits assessments to communicate how VTO research and development products support DOE’s mission, and has also included these in its annual Congressional budget request.