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NRC conducts research in the field of innovative propulsion technologies and alternative fuels to help develop tomorrow's energy efficient vehicles.  Research in this field is focussed on improving components and systems for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles and developing biofuels. NRC's portfolio of expertise spreads over several institutes across Canada:

Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicles 

NRC has a wide range of competencies relevant to the development of electric/hybrid vehicles:

  • The improvement of energy storage systems with the goal of reducing costs, improving durability and safety. NRC has been actively involved in the development of safer and higher energy density batteries, and reduced cost materials which can be used for a range of applications including plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • The improvement of electric powertrains (especially magnetic materials and solutions to enhanced thermal management).
  • The development of simulation tools which target automotive applications such as the modeling of cell and individual component durability, accessible power densities as a function of state-of-charge and duty cycles, and thermal management of lithium-based batteries.
  • Systems integration of electric vehicle innovations into the vehicle.

Several NRC institutes work together on the development of electric/hybrid vehicles:

  • The NRC's Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology (ICPET) has 25 years of experience in the development and evaluation of advanced lithium and lithium ion batteries. NRC-ICPET has in-house capabilities to synthesis all component materials, characterize their crystallographic and microstructural characteristics, evaluate their electrochemical performance under a broad range of operating conditions, and to assess their thermal stability. The institute also develops modeling and simulation tools for assessing electrochemical performance and durability of component materials and cell designs.
  • The NRC Industrial Materials Institute (IMI) and the NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation (IFCI) are currently working on the development of new energy storage systems (such as metal-air batteries and supercapacitors), electric drive components and the development of models and simulation methods for battery systems.
  • NRC Centre for Surface Transportation Technology provides research, development, evaluation and testing services (including climatic engineering facility, heavy vehicle tilt facility, road simulation/vibration facility, proving grounds) for the rail and road transport industries, defence departments, and vehicle and equipment manufacturers. Its mission is to improve and protect human life through mobility, with a focus on vehicle safety. 

Fuel Cells

  • Canada is at the forefront of fuel cell and hydrogen technology world-wide. NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation (NRC-IFCI) is leading the National Program on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells to address the current technical challenges of the transportation industry. One project is aimed at increasing the durability and reliability of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), while decreasing the costs associated with their manufacture. The program is focused on improving the performance, manufacturability, and operational flexibility of PEMFC by providing leadership in the design of membrane electrode assemblies (MEA), device and unit cell design, fuel cell catalysis, and fuel cell characterization.
  • NRC-IMI is developing various polymeric materials used to fabricate proton exchange membranes for fuel cell applications. The objective is to design new higher performance membranes at a lower cost using processing techniques in the molten state, such as extrusion, calendering and blowing.
  • NRC-ICPET is developing new platinum alloy catalysts that will provide higher catalytic activity than pure platinum at lower costs. 


NRC and Agriculture and Agrifood Canada (AAFC) are jointly leading the National Bioproducts Program, which comprises several projects relevant to the transportation sector.  Two research projects of the National Program devoted to the production of alternative fuels are:

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