NREL gets its first autonomous shuttle

Driverless vehicle to transport employees around the Golden campus

Posted 9/17/19

From wireless charging for electric vehicles to vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden has been doing research on transportation for a long …

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NREL gets its first autonomous shuttle

Driverless vehicle to transport employees around the Golden campus

Posted

From wireless charging for electric vehicles to vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden has been doing research on transportation for a long time.

“Pushing the boundaries of science,” said Johney Green, associate laboratory director in NREL’s mechanical and thermal engineering services, the latest in transportation research to come to NREL is an electric-powered autonomous shuttle.

“We want to be on the ground floor” with transportation technologies,” Green said. “This gives us an opportunity to take a peek into the future.”

Called the EZ10, the autonomous shuttle made its NREL debut on Sept. 9.

EZ10 coming to NREL was made possible by EasyMile, a company that specializes in “autonomous vehicle technology and smart mobility solutions,” according to its website. Headquartered in France, EasyMile established a regional office in Denver two years ago. EasyMile first introduced its EZ10 at the 2019 Global Public Transport Summit on June 10 in Stockholm, Sweden.

How it works is “real-time data processing allows the driverless vehicle system to decide how to behave as it progresses safely along the road,” states a press release.

At NREL, the EZ10 will be used to transport employees to and from the campus’ parking garage during peak hours. It can comfortably carry 12 passengers at a time, and can make about five trips of its 1.1-mile pre-programmed route per hour.

MV Transportation is the third partner that made it possible to have an autonomous vehicle on the NREL campus. MV Transportation is NREL’s shuttle service subcontractor. Though the autonomous shuttle is “equipped with a full range of sensors and an intelligent vehicle system to detect obstacles and avoid collisions,” states a press release, for EZ10’s first year of operation, MV Transportation will have a person onboard to monitor operations and to ensure safety.

“Everybody’s talking about ACES,” said Kevin Walkowicz, manager of NREL’s Advanced Vehicles and Fueling Infrastructure Group.

ACES, he added, stands for Automated, Connected, Electric and Shared transportation. The EZ10 is for passenger transport, Walkowicz said, but there is also research going on in the world for autonomous freight transport and multimodal.

“It’s a really exciting time in transportation,” added Jeffrey Gonder, manager of NREL’s Mobility, Behavior and Advanced Powertrains Group.

Aside from eventually becoming operated completely on its own, the future for EZ10 at NREL will be for data collecting. This includes “associated energy use, charging and energy storage needs, and autonomous systems operation and control,” states a press release.

The NREL “campus is a living laboratory,” Green said. “We’re excited to be able to do this here.”

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