Vehicles and Energy

The climate change crisis has forced us to rethink how vehicles are designed and powered. MIT is a world leader in the development of electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles and powertrains for a more sustainable future. Our research is not limited to ground vehicles; MIT is also a leader sustainable aircraft design. Other labs are investigating human responses to in-vehicle alert systems in order to design safer vehicles.

The research labs and faculty working in this area are shown below. You can see a full listing of the people and labs involved with the MIT Mobility Initiative by navigating to the people page and the labs page.

Researchers

Steven Barrett

Director, Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment

Research Interests:

Climate Impacts of Aviation, Aircraft Emissions, Biofuels, Electric Aircraft Design, Low Emission and Noise Aircraft Propulsion

Chris Knittel

George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics

Research Interests:

Economics, Finance and Accounting

Sergey Paltsev

Deputy Director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Research Interests:

Energy Transition, Policy Scenarios, Climate Policy, Regional Analysis

Matthias Winkenbach

Director of the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab; Director of the MIT CAVE Lab

Research Interests:

Multi-tier Distribution Network Design, Urban Logistics, Last-Mile Delivery, Urban Freight Policy, Data Analytics and Visualization

Randall Field

Executive Director, MIT Energy Initiative’s Mobility Systems Center

Research Interests:

Decarbonization of Transportation, Energy Efficiency in Mobility, Low-Carbon Technologies, Energy Systems Integration

David Keith

Assistant Professor, System Dynamics

Research Interests:

Autonomous Vehicle, Supply Chain Management, Energy Consumption

Nick Roy

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Research Interests:

Robotics, Machine Learning, Autonomous Systems, Planning and Reasoning, Human-Computer Interaction, Micro Air Vehicles

Bill Green

Hoyt C. Hottel Professor in Chemical Engineering

Research Interests:

Fuel Chemistry, Evaluation of Alternative Fuels & Engines

Valerie Karplus

Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management

Research Interests:

Biotechnology, Climate Change, Economic Modeling, Economic Development, Energy, Globalization, Sustainability

Sanjay Sarma

Vice President for Open Learning at MIT

Research Interests:

Automotive Technologies, Batteries, Digital Learning, Design, Manufacturing

John Heywood

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Research Interests:

Energy and transportation interface, Internal combustion engines, Transportation fuels

John Leonard

Samuel C. Collins Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering

Research Interests:

AI & Machine Learning, Graphics & Vision, Robotics, Big Data and Transportation

Jessika Trancik

Associate Professor of Energy Studies

Research Interests:

Storage Technologies, Environmental Analysis, Energy Technologies

Labs

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Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research

Since 1977, the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) has been a focal point for research on energy and environmental policy at MIT. CEEPR promotes rigorous, objective research for improved decision making in government and the private sector, and secures the relevance of its work through close cooperation with industry partners from around the globe. Drawing on the unparalleled resources available at MIT, affiliated faculty and research staff as well as international research associates contribute to the empirical study of a wide range of policy issues related to energy supply, energy demand, and the environment.

Director:

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Center for Ocean Engineering

Today, MIT is at the forefront of ocean science and engineering, with significant efforts in fluid mechanics and hydrodynamics, acoustics, offshore mechanics, marine robotics and sensors, and ocean sensing and forecasting. In addition, the Naval Construction program provides advanced graduate education on the design of naval ships and vehicles. The Center is a focal point for interdepartmental collaborations, interactions with other MIT schools, as well as outside the Institute.

Director:

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Electric Aircraft Initiative

The MIT Electric Aircraft Initiative draws together efforts across MIT aimed at long-term research on electric aircraft. Research spans fundamental propulsion technology development for small drones through to overall aircraft configuration assessment for all-electric commercial aircraft. The focus is on the very long term: technologies that could result in near-silent propulsion and low or no emissions. You can learn more about the overall research areas or read our publications.

Director:

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Energy Initiative

The MIT Energy Initiative is MIT's hub for energy research, education, and outreach, connecting faculty, students, and staff to develop the knowledge, technologies, and solutions that will deliver clean, affordable, and plentiful sources of energy. Their mission is to develop low- and no-carbon solutions that will efficiently, affordably, and sustainably meet global energy needs while minimizing environmental impacts, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigating climate change.

Director:

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Energy-at-Scale Center

MIT’s Energy at Scale Center seeks to address the massive scaling requirements necessary for low-carbon technologies to make a substantial contribution to future global energy needs, in collaboration with industry, government, and nonprofit members. We examine economic, technical, environmental, political, and public opinion barriers for deployment. We explore these risks using our Integrated Global System Modeling (IGSM) framework that combines the Economic Projection and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model, MIT Earth System Model (MESM), as well as a portfolio of impact assessment models that focus on life‑sustaining resources (e.g., managed water systems, crop production, ecosystem/forest services, wind/solar/hydropower, and air quality). These linked computer models allow us to analyze a wide range of development pathways in the global energy, agricultural, transportation, and other key sectors.

Director:

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Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

The MIT Joint Program combines scientific research with risk and policy analyses to project the impacts of, and evaluate possible responses to, the many interwoven challenges of global socioeconomic, technological and environmental change. The program also cultivates and educates the next generation of interdisciplinary researchers with the skills to tackle ongoing and emerging complex global challenges.

Director:

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Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment

The Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment is a research lab in the MIT Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics. The team is interdisciplinary, covering expertise in Aeronautical, Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, Atmospheric Science and Economics.

Director:

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Marine Robotics Group

The Marine Robotics Group, headed by Prof. John J. Leonard, is part of CSAIL at MIT. Our projects are centered around the problems of navigation and mapping for autonomous mobile robots operating in underwater and terrestrial environments.

Director:

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Mobility Systems Center

The Mobility Systems Center, an MIT Energy Initiative Low-Carbon Energy Center, brings together MIT's extensive expertise in mobility research to understand current and future trends in global passenger and freight mobility. Approaching mobility from a socio-technical perspective, we identify key challenges, understand potential trends, and analyze the societal and environmental impact of new mobility solutions. Through developing, maintaining, and applying a set of state-of-the-art scientific tools for the mobility sector, the Center aims to assess future mobility transformations from a technological, economic, environmental, and socio-political perspective. Executive Director: Randall Field

Director:

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Robust Robotics Group

The research goals of the Robust Robotics Group are to build unmanned vehicles that can fly without GPS through unmapped indoor environments, robots that can drive through unmapped cities, and to build social robots that can quickly learn what people want without being annoying or intrusive. Such robots must be able to perform effectively with uncertain and limited knowledge of the world, be easily deployed in new environments and immediately start autonomous operations with no prior information. They specifically focus on problems of planning and control in domains with uncertain models, using optimization, statistical estimation and machine learning to learn good plans and policies from experience.

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Courses

Solving Big Engineering Problems

1.008

Introduction to big engineering problems that span our built infrastructure and natural environment. Topics promote high-level thinking and basic problem-solving skills for societal problems in domains of civil and environmental engineering. Lectures based on case studies that emphasize key challenges and opportunities in areas of digital cities, cyber-physical infrastructure systems (transportation, logistics, power), engineering of natural resources (land, water, energy), and sustainable and resilient design under the changing environment. Students collaborate to identify basic modeling issues, explore analysis tools, and engage in teamwork to discuss the design and implementation of new technologies, policies, and systems in the real-world. Laboratory and field visits illustrate interesting natural phenomena and new engineering applications. Subject can count toward the 9-unit discovery-focused credit limit for first year students.

Global Energy: Politics, Markets, and Policy

11.167

Focuses on the ways economics and politics influence the fate of energy technologies, business models, and policies around the world. Extends fundamental concepts in the social sciences to case studies and simulations that illustrate how corporate, government, and individual decisions shape energy and environmental outcomes. In a final project, students apply the concepts in order to assess the prospects for an energy innovation to scale and advance sustainability goals in a particular regional market. Recommended prerequisite: 14.01. Meets with 15.219 when offered concurrently. Expectations and evaluation criteria differ for students taking graduate version; consult syllabus or instructor for specific details. Preference to juniors, seniors, and Energy Minors.

Economics of Energy, Innovation, and Sustainability

14.43/15.020

Covers energy and environmental market organization and regulation. Explores economic challenges and solutions to transforming energy markets to be more efficient, accessible, affordable, and sustainable. Applies core economic concepts - consumer choice, firm profit maximization, and strategic behavior - to understand when energy and environmental markets work well and when they fail. They also conduct data-driven economic analysis on the trade-offs of real and proposed policy interventions. Topics include renewable generation sources for electricity, energy access in emerging markets, efficiency programs and fuel efficiency standards, transitioning transportation to alternative fuels, measuring damages and adaptation to climate change, and the effect of energy and environmental policy on innovation. Expectations and evaluation criteria differ for students taking graduate version; consult syllabus or instructor for specific details.

Aerospace, Energy, and the Environment

16.715

Addresses energy and environmental challenges facing aerospace in the 21st century. Topics include: aircraft performance and energy requirements, propulsion technologies, jet fuels and alternative fuels, lifecycle assessment of fuels, combustion, emissions, climate change due to aviation, aircraft contrails, air pollution impacts of aviation, impacts of supersonic aircraft, and aviation noise. Includes an in-depth introduction to the relevant atmospheric and combustion physics and chemistry with no prior knowledge assumed. Discussion and analysis of near-term technological, fuel-based, regulatory and operational mitigation options for aviation, and longer-term technical possibilities.

Flight Vehicle Engineering

16.82

Design of an atmospheric flight vehicle to satisfy stated performance, stability, and control requirements. Emphasizes individual initiative, application of fundamental principles, and the compromises inherent in the engineering design process. Includes instruction and practice in written and oral communication, through team presentations and a written final report. Course 16 students are expected to complete two professional or concentration subjects from the departmental program before taking this capstone.

Autonomous Vehicles

2.166

Theory and application of probabilistic techniques for autonomous mobile robotics. Topics include probabilistic state estimation and decision making for mobile robots; stochastic representations of the environment; dynamic models and sensor models for mobile robots; algorithms for mapping and localization; planning and control in the presence of uncertainty; cooperative operation of multiple mobile robots; mobile sensor networks; application to autonomous marine (underwater and floating), ground, and air vehicles.

Energy Systems and Climate Change Mitigation

IDS.521

Reviews the contributions of energy systems to global greenhouse gas emissions, and the levers for reducing those emissions. Lectures and projects focus on evaluating energy systems against climate policy goals, using performance metrics such as cost, carbon intensity, and others. Student projects explore pathways for realizing emissions reduction scenarios. Projects address the climate change mitigation potential of energy technologies, technological and behavioral change trajectories, and technology and policy portfolios.

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