Advanced Vehicle Systems

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Advanced Vehicle Systems research program provides key expertise in the understanding, simulation, and integration of advanced vehicle technologies to offer new insight on the potential benefits for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and other advanced powertrain vehicles.

The program draws upon ORNL expertise in advanced engine technologies, advanced power electronics and electric machines, and laboratory-to-roadside testing, evaluation, modeling, and analysis to meet the research needs of the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office and to support public decision making regarding the benefits of adopting advanced energy efficient transportation technologies.

Vehicle Systems Integration (VSI) Laboratory

VSI Test Cell Capabilities

VSI Powertrain Test Cell

  • Powertrain “X”-in-the-loop environment capable of testing light-duty to full heavy-duty Class 8 powertrain at a vehicle level
  • Heavy-duty focus to evaluate engines, transmissions, and integrated powertrains, as well as inherent full light-duty powertrain capability

VSI Component Test Cell

  • Component “X”-in-the-loop environment capable of testing engines, electric machines, and energy storage systems at a vehicle level
  • Light-duty focus with medium-duty powertrain component capability


  • Twin AVL 500 kW AC transient dynamometers, each capable of up to 3,750 N·m of torque
  • Acceleration/deceleration rates of up to 3,500 rpm/sec
  • Up to 20,000 N·m of torque when dynamometers are linked through summing gearbox for powertrain applications


  • An AVL 250 kW, low-inertia dynamometer capable of up to 650 N·m of torque
  • 12,000 rpm high-speed capability
  • Double-ended to accommodate two independent experiments simultaneously

Shared Features:

  • An AVL 400 kW (up to 800 V and 600 A) energy storage emulator with stand-alone flexibility to simulate and evaluate different energy storage systems
  • A dSPACE HIL real-time platform for vehicle and subsystem emulation
  • Dual transient emissions measurement system for criteria emissions and particulate matter

The Vehicle Systems Integration (VSI) Laboratory offers unique capabilities to test, simulate, and evaluate engines, electric motors, and transmissions in conventional and hybrid powertrain configurations for vehicles ranging from light-duty cars to Class 8 trucks. The VSI Lab is changing the pace of powertrain development by performing prototype research and characterization of advanced systems and hardware components.

Researchers evaluate powertrains and other components using simulations that emulate real-world routes and driving conditions.

The lab features “X”-in-the-loop hardware evaluation of powertrain components and/or subsystems in virtual vehicle environments, where “X” represents any experimental component or subsystem. It is capable of accommodating a range of platforms from advanced light-duty vehicles to hybridized Class 8 powertrains with the goals of improving overall system efficiency and reducing emissions. Coupling this data-rich asset with the Center for Transportation Analysis' complementary capabilities in analysis, modeling, simulation, and visualization represents a powerful resource for users.

Through the VSI Lab’s industry CRADA partner, Meritor Inc., the lab is able to bridge modeling/simulation/analysis and controls development of prototype hardware in transient operation of the Meritor Class 8 tractor drivetrain. Other significant collaborations with the VSI Lab include the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, the International Council on Clean Transportation, Eaton Corporation, California Air Resources Board, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and SAE International.

Hybrid Powertrain X-in-the-Loop Architecture

The VSI Lab features an “X”-in-the-loop platform to test a powertrain component or subsystem in a virtual vehicle environment. For instance, a hybrid drive system commissioned in the VSI Powertrain Test Cell would comprise:

Unit Under Test

  • Engine with or without corresponding emission aftertreatment
  • Hybrid transmission including necessary electric machines and power electronics

Real-Time Virtual Environment

  • Modeling of driveline and vehicle characteristics
  • Modeling of energy storage system with representative battery management controls


  • Energy storage system emulator
  • Twin 500kW dynamometers through summing gearbox

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy