Daniel Sperling

Headshot of Daniel Sperling

Position Title
Interim Executive Director


Daniel Sperling is Distinguished Blue Planet Prize Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy, founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis), and founding chair of the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and Economy at the University of California, Davis. ITS-Davis is staffed by almost 200 faculty, staff, and student researchers. He was Interim Director of the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center from 2008-10, and the UC Davis Energy Institute from 2013-15.

He has received many awards, including Lifetime Achievement in Research and Education by the US Council of University Transportation Centers (2024); induction into National Academy of Engineers (2022); Roy Crum award for research and service (2018) and Thomas Deen Distinguished Lectureship (2015) by the Transportation Research Board (National Academies); Blue Planet Prize (2013) for being “a pioneer in opening up new fields of study to create more efficient, low-carbon, and environmentally beneficial transportation systems,” and Heinz Award (2010) for his “achievements in the research of alternative transportation fuels and his responsibility for the adoption of cleaner transportation policies in California and across the United States.” Other awards include the 2009 Robert Zweig Public Education Award of the National Hydrogen Association, 2008 Barry McNutt TRB Award for Best Paper in Energy, and 2002 Carl Moyer Memorial Award for Scientific Leadership and Technical Excellence by the Coalition for Clean Air.

His key leadership positions outside academia include appointment by Governor Schwarzenegger to the “automotive engineering” seat on the California Air Resources Board in February 2007, which he held until January 2023; Chair of the Transportation Research Board (National Academies) in 2015-16; Chair of the California Fuel Cell Partnership in 2015; and first chair of the “Future of Transportation” Council of the Davos World Economic Forum in 2008.

Dr. Sperling has led ITS-Davis to international prominence by building strong partnerships with industry, government, and the environmental community, integrating interdisciplinary research and education programs, and connecting research with policy. ITS-Davis is recognized as the leading university center in the world for sustainable transportation, with centers in China, Europe, and India, and has hosted the prestigious US Department of Transportation National Center for Sustainable Transportation since 2013 (with USC, Georgia Tech, UC Riverside, University of Vermont, and Cal-State LA as consortium partners). ITS-Davis won Forth’s 2019 Roadmap Award for Research for “an organization that has produced compelling research that will significantly advance electric, smart and shared mobility”; the 2006 Robert M. Zweig Public Education Award of the National Hydrogen Association, 2005 TRANNY award for Organization of the Year by the California Transportation Foundation, and 1998 Employer of the Year Award of the Women’s Transportation Seminar of Sacramento.

Dr. Sperling is recognized as a leading international expert on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and transportation policy. He was co-director of the 2007 study that designed California’s landmark low carbon fuel standard and co-director of a follow-up 2010 national study. He has testified 8 times to the US Congress and presented 1000 talks in his career, including 10-15 keynote and “distinguished speaker” presentations per year in recent years. He has authored or co-authored over 250 technical papers and 13 books, including Two Billion Cars (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Three Revolutions: Steering Automated, Shared and Electric Vehicles to a Better Future (Island Press, 2018).

Among Professor Sperling’s other prominent accomplishments and activities are lead author of the transportation chapter for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore, and member of 16 National Academies study committees on Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Gasoline Taxes, Hydrogen, Transport in China, Biomass Fuels R&D, Sustainable Transportation, and Innovative Mobility Services. He was also founding chair of two standing committees for the U.S. Transportation Research Board: Alternative Transportation Fuels (1989-96), and Sustainability and Transportation (2006-08). He is the founding organizer of the premier conference on transportation and energy policy (at Asilomar Conference Center), bringing together leaders and experts from industry, government, academia, and the environmental community.

He serves on many advisory committees and advises senior executives of many automotive and energy companies, environmental groups, and national governments, including recent review committees at three DOE national laboratories. He has been an invited contributor to Forbes and energy expert contributor to Wall Street Journal, widely cited in and op-ed contributor to New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, The Conversation, and others in recent years, has been interviewed many times on NPR radio, including Science Friday, Talk of the Nation, Marketplace, and Fresh Air, and in February 2009 he was featured on the Jon Stewart Daily Show.

Prior to obtaining his Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley (with minors in Economics and Energy & Resources), Professor Sperling worked two years as an environmental planner for the US Environmental Protection Agency and two years as an urban planner in the Peace Corps in Honduras. He has an undergraduate degree in engineering and urban planning from Cornell University.

View Professor Sperling’s full curriculum vitae.

A full list of Professor Sperling's publications can be viewed here.

Honors and Awards
  • 2024 Awarded Lifetime Achievement for Research and Education by the Council of University Transportation Centers
  • 2022 Inducted into National Academy of Engineering
  • 2020 Senior Fellow, California Council on Science and Technology
  • 2019 Forth’s Roadmap Award for Research, ITS-Davis for “an individual or an organization that has produced compelling research that will significantly advance electric, smart and shared mobility”
  • 2018 Roy W. Crum Award of US Transportation Research Board for Outstanding Achievement in Research
  • 2015 Thomas B. Deen Distinguished Lectureship for US Transportation Research Board
  • 2013 Blue Planet Prize of the Asahi Glass Foundation
  • 2010 Heinz Award with Special Focus on Global Change
  • 2009 Robert Zweig Public Education Award of the National Hydrogen Association
  • 2007-Present. Board member of California Air Resources Board
  • 2002 Carl Moyer Memorial Award for Scientific Leadership and Technical Excellence by the Coalition for Clean Air
  • 1997 “Clean Air Award” by the American Lung Association of Sacramento
  • ECI/ESP 163 Energy and Environmental Aspects of Transportation (4)
  • ECI/ESP 165 Transportation Policy (3)
  • ECN/EGG 202 Climate Policy (4) (co-taught with James Bushnell)