NREL’s John Farrell Honored for Leadership in Sustainable Fuels and Engines

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Since taking the helm of NREL’s vehicle technologies research in 2013, John Farrell has been instrumental in directing R&D initiatives for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office, ranging from high-density energy storage to vehicle automation, as well as co-optimization of fuel and engine technologies to vehicle-to-grid interactions.

Now, in a public nod to his extraordinary professional contributions to fuel science and fuel-engine interactions, Farrell has been named as one of 17 SAE Fellows for 2020—the highest grade of membership in SAE International, a global organization of engineers and other technical experts in automotive, commercial-vehicle, and aerospace industries focused on advancing mobility technology solutions for the benefit of humanity. Only about 20 of SAE’s more than 138,000 members are elected fellows each year.

“It is an honor to have been nominated and now recognized as SAE Fellow,” Farrell said. “I want to say thank you to the many exceptional and passionate transportation researchers and analysts I’ve collaborated with over the years. It has been a pleasure to play a part in our greater pursuit of a sustainable and effective transportation future.”

Farrell is notable for co-founding and leading DOE’s Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. Co-Optima is a joint effort of nine national laboratories that aims to accelerate the introduction of efficient, clean, affordable, and scalable high-performance fuels and engines. A recent report authored by Farrell summarizes the first phase of the effort, which assessed the balance of fuel properties and engine parameters that mitigate knock and emissions in light-duty vehicles with turbocharged spark-ignition engines.

Bolstered by Farrell’s technical insight, Co-Optima has promoted a more nuanced understanding of fuel chemistry, laying the groundwork for advanced blendstocks with promise for widespread commercialization, better engine performance, and reduced emissions. The improved fuel economy delivered by Co-Optima is expected to result in tens of billions of dollars in cost savings annually.

NREL Associate Laboratory Director Johney Green has collaborated with Farrell for years and supported his SAE Fellow nomination. Green is quick to point to Farrell’s vision and leadership that keenly match his broad and deep technical expertise, uniquely positioning him to helm collaborative, interdisciplinary teams such as Co-Optima and others that have revolutionized the mobility space.

“During his time at NREL, Dr. Farrell has established a leadership role for the lab in a number of national strategic initiatives spanning a range of technology areas,” Green said. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the SAE Fellow recognition than him. Congratulations to Dr. Farrell for all of his accomplishments and this most prestigious recognition.”

The outcomes of the research under Farrell’s guidance will lead to better performing lithium-ion batteries for electric-drive vehicles; improved integration of energy storage across transportation, buildings, and grid applications; and advanced, highly efficient medium- and heavy-duty vehicle components and systems.

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