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Energy

To successfully address the increasing importance of energy in the transportation sector, it is necessary to expand the capabilities of ITS beyond a transportation-centric perspective. Toward this end, the “Transportation Initiative,” a new alliance between ITS and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), was forged in 2015 to leverage the considerable complementary expertise of the two research organizations: The Institute has 60 years working at the core of transportation, LBNL has 80 years of history in energy, with major contributions in fuels, batteries, and the grid — three fields that are migrating to the core of transportation challenges.

UC Berkeley boasts a depth and breadth of energy-related research, including the Energy and Resources Group, Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, Berkeley Energy Resources Collaborative, Energy Institute at Haas, and Sustainable Infrastructures Initiative within CITRIS. Several departments are in the process of developing new curricula in the field of energy. For example, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has launched the Energy, Civil Infrastructure, and Climate program, designed to educate a new class of professionals who apply engineering, environmental, economic, and management perspectives to address complex problems such as environmentally informed design of transportation systems, embodied energy of construction materials, electricity from renewable sources, and biofuels, and address overarching societal problems such as adaptation of infrastructure to a changing climate.

The Energy growth area is designed to leverage these extraordinary campus resources and to unite and expand ITS research on alternative fuels, batteries, and grid-related issues to pioneer a next-generation infrastructure of interfaced electrified vehicles (EVs) and grid, and the markets to support it. This work will have impacts on many connected applications, including traffic operations, public policy, funding, and, of course, energy markets.

Scott Moura, right, works with a student on an electric scooter Moura uses to test battery storage. Behind them, an environmental chamber simulates the effects of different weather conditions on batteries. Photo Credit: Paul Kirchner

Q&A Scott Moura: Electrified Vehicles
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Transportation interests: Electrified vehicles are the main transportation-related application that motivates me. I’m specifically interested in how we can enhance driving range, power, charge times, and cost in EVs. The answer to these questions inevitably leads one to examining EV batteries. How do we squeeze out more performance, safety, lifetime, and value from batteries?

Background: I grew up in Los Angeles, a city that’s notorious for consuming years of your life sitting in traffic. As a child sitting in traffic, I took notice of vehicles uniquely suitable for the urban environment. This got me interested in green transportation. As a grad student, I attended the University of Michigan, located in the epicenter of the American automotive industry. There I was exposed to transportation technologies of the future, including EVs, batteries, and integrating EVs with the electric grid.

Pressing research questions: Energy storage, in my mind, is unquestionably the biggest and most pressing research challenge in the coming decade. Energy storage is the linchpin enabling technology for so many critical objectives, including clean transportation, integrating renewable energy into the grid, and enhancing resilience across both transportation and energy infrastructures. Consider EVs and their batteries. They create zero tailpipe emissions, can be charged at home or work from rooftop solar, and are insensitive to political strife overseas. Furthermore, they can be repurposed in a post-transportation afterlife for stationary energy-storage applications, such as backup power for hospitals and schools. To enable this vision, however, requires battery technologies that are cost-effective, efficient, and safe — topics my research lab is laser-focused on.