APEP Research Overview

The Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) conducts research in the following five elements of the energy domain for generating electricity and powering the transportation sector:

  • Energy Systems Integration and Impacts
  • Renewable Fuels
  • Energy Storage
  • Fuel Cell Science and Technology
  • Combustion Science and Technology
The program bridges between fundamental science and the various end use applications with a particular focus on improving the overall performance and sustainability of energy systems from electric power generation to transportation, and the market development for these systems.

Energy Systems Integration and Impacts

The major targets for the reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and Criteria Air Pollutant (CAP) emissions are vehicles, and the generation, transmission, and use of electricity. This is leading to the current attention to deploying renewable power generation on the electric grid, the development of zero-emission battery and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and the merging of the electric grid and mobility as exemplified by (1) vehicle charging from the electric grid, and (2) the generation of hydrogen for storage and use in FCEVs by otherwise curtailed solar and wind. The research in Grid / Mobility Systems addresses this future.

Electricity is traditionally generated by large, central power plants (100 to in excess of 1000 MW). In contrast, the generation of electricity at the point of use is developing as a complementary market. Referred to a distributed generation, examples include the deployment of power generators at hotels, grocery stores, shopping centers, server farms, and university campuses. The research in Central / Distributed Generation addresses the steps required to dramatically improve the environmental sensitivity of Central Generation, and the development of sustainable Distribution Generation.

Energy consumes substantial amounts of water, and the delivery and treatment of water utilizes large amounts of energy. In addition, hydro resources (reservoirs) are an important source for the generation of electricity and, in some regions, the major source. Climate change is changing the capability of hydro resources. The research in Water / Energy Nexus develops technologies to reduce if not make the generation of electricity a net source of water and dramatically improve the efficiency in the transport and treatment of water, and critically evaluates the impact of climate change on hydro power.

Transportation and the generation, transmission, and utilization of electricity are major sources of GHG emissions associated with climate change, and the emission of CAPs associated with urban air quality. The research in Climate / AQ Impacts simulates and evaluates in future years the impact of proposed changes in the electric grid, vehicle power, and the selection of fuels on GHG emissions, and air quality with the goal to guide the adoption of the technologies that will most effectively and efficiently meet environmental targets.

Most attention with regard to impacts is directed to the operation of the technology. Important as well are the environmental, economic, and energy impacts associated with the extraction and preparation of the materials, the manufacturing of the technology, and the disposal or recycling of the technology. This is the thrust of the research in Life Cycle Impacts, a multi-disciplinary effort at the forefront of this critical consideration for the energy and environmental future.

To address the challenges associated with climate change and urban air quality degradation, Zero-Emission Vehicles are emerging based on electric drivetrains, and powered either by batteries (battery-electric vehicles), a combination of batteries and fuel cells (fuel cell electric vehicles), or a combination of both. Vehicles range from light-duty to heavy-duty, include locomotives and ships, and may evolve to aircraft as well. A critical element of this future is the required electric charging and hydrogen dispensing infrastructure. As a two-fold paradigm shift (transformation of vehicles from combustion to electricity; transformation of fuel from gasoline and diesel to electricity and hydrogen), research in this area is necessarily is broad.

The HORIBA Institute for Mobility and Connectivity provides an advanced research and educational platform to address:

  • The evolution of zero-emission vehicle and mobility systems
  • The connectivity of the zero-emission mobility future with the electric grid, and
  • The connectivity between vehicles and the infrastructure in support of autonomous mobility. The Institute provides (1) systems-based research that addresses the evolution of zero-emission mobility to meet, in combination with the evolution of a smart and zero-emission electric grid, the grand challenges associated with climate change, urban air quality, fuel independence, economic security, and overall societal quality of life, and (2) interdisciplinary research and education that combines engineering, information and computer science, physical science, social science, and business science.

Renewable Fuels

Research in Renewable Hydrogen / Electrofuels addresses the evolution of zero-carbon and carbon-neutral gaseous fuels from generation, to transmission, to utilization in stationary applications (e.g., combustion and fuel cell power generators) and mobile applications (e.g., light-duty vehicles such as automobiles, medium-duty vehicles such as delivery trucks, heavy-duty vehicles such as buses and long-haul trucks, locomotives, and ships). Zero-emission carbon fuels include electrofuels generated through the electrolysis of water from otherwise curtailed solar and wind (e.g., renewable hydrogen and renewable methane). Neutral-carbon gaseous fuels include bio fuels generated at water resource recovery centers, land-fills, and the gasification of biomass.

The research in Renewable Liquid Fuels focuses on the generation of (1) liquid renewable hydrogen for suppling hydrogen fueling stations and, in the future, powering drayage and long-haul trucks, locomotives, and aircraft, and (2) liquid biofuels for fueling the current populations of vehicles including aircraft.

Research in Renewable Methane focuses on the utilization of renewable methane in both gaseous and liquid forms, and the use of renewable methane to reduce the carbon signature of the natural gas infrastructure.

Research in Fuel Production addresses the technologies, and the siting of technologies associated with the generation of renewable and electrofuels.

Research in Fuel Distribution focuses on the distribution of renewable and electrofuels from the point of production to the point of utilization.

Research in Techno-Economic Analysis critically evaluates the technology readiness of renewable fuel technologies, the research and development required to further develop the readiness of the technologies, and the economic requirements for both the technology evolution to commercialization and eventual cost of the technology in the market.

Energy Storage

Research in Battery Electric Storage addresses deployment pathways for battery storage with a focus on Lithium-Ion batteries to complement the penetration of intermittent solar and wind renewable power generation resources.

Research in Hydro Storage focuses on the historic and future role of water reservoirs to both generate renewable electricity and store energy from otherwise curtailed solar and wind resources. The impact of climate change on hydro resources throughout the country and the world is a major dimension of the research.

Research in Hydrogen Battery Storage considers a technology that is capable of storing and distributing the very large levels of otherwise curtailed solar and wind generated power. Stored renewable hydrogen, in contrast to electric batteries, has the capability to store the large levels of energy, store the energy from days to seasons, and not self-discharge. The stored renewable hydrogen is perfectly matched to powering stationary fuel cells to generate electricity when the load demands, and to fuel hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

Research in Storage Hybrids addresses the combination of the various storage technologies in order to capture the most effective and economically viable combination to meet a specific local, regional, or statewide need.

Research in Storage Innovation considers both the incorporation of storage into the grid infrastructure, but also the utilization of storage resources and the examination of novel storage systems.

Research in Techno-Economic Analysis critically evaluates the technology readiness of storage technologies, the research and development required to further develop the readiness of the technologies, and the economic requirements for both the technology evolution to commercialization and eventual cost of the technology in the market.

Fuel Cell Science and Technology

Click on the "Research" tab on the National Fuel Cell Research Center website.

Combustion Science and Technology

Click on the "Research" tab on the UCI Combustion Laboratory website.