Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques (IPM) in Germany are developing thermoelectric materials, modules and systems to harness waste heat in automobiles. Electricity produced by the thermoelectric generators (TEG) will feed the energy into the car’s electronic systems.
The thermoelectric generator exploits the several hundred degrees Celsius temperature difference between the exhaust pipe and a pipe carrying engine cooling fluid, says Dr. Harald Böttner, head of the Thermoelectric Systems department.
The long-term objective is to make the alternator superfluous and to supply energy to the constantly rising number of power consumers in the car. TEGs could cover a significant proportion of a car’s power requirements, making it possible to reduce fuel consumption by between 5 and 7%, according to Dr. Böttner.
The researchers are still in the experimentation phase at present, but they plan to build the first prototypes soon.
In March, the US Department of Energy issued a new solicitation for research in thermoelectric waste heat recovery and HVAC. (Earlier post.)