Thermo-electric generators promise higher driving range

Thermo-electric generators promise higher driving range

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Combustion engines are known to have a rather poor energy efficiency: They utilize only about one third of the primary energy contained in the fuel; the remaining two thirds are transformed into heat and are cooled away without further use (besides heating during the cold season). Thermo-electric generators make use of this waste heat and turn them into electric energy that in turn can be utilized to run electric systems such as driver assistance systems or comfort electronics. Thus, these generators can off-load the alternator. In hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles equipped with a range extender, the energy recovered by means of a thermos-electric generator can be fed directly into the traction battery.

The scientists from Yamaha and DLR believe they can reduce a vehicle’s fuel consumption by 3 to 5 per cent through if they utilize thermo-electric generators. The goal of their project is creating a prototype that subsequently can be commercialized. Along with partners from the research community and from the industry, the DLR’s Institute for Vehicle Concepts has already developed and tested first system integrations based on thermos-electric systems. However, they found the availability of suitable thermo-electric elements very limited.

With the help of Yamaha’s expertise in materials procurement and in the production of semiconductor-based thermo-electric modules, the researchers now plan to design such modules that are custom-made for automotive use. “In terms of shape, thermal and electric properties, temperature range and cycle stability, these modules have been designed according to our specifications”, explained DLR researcher Mirko Klein Altstedde who initiated the collaboration. “At the same time, our partner brings the necessary expertise in manufacturing technology so these modules can be produced efficiently and cost-efficiently for the automotive industry,” he added.


Currently the project has devised the first demonstrators which now will be undergo extensive lab testing.


Further reading

Sub-watt thermoelectric generator market to grow quickly, says forecast

Thermoelectrics startup looks to expand TEG module market

Battery-less smartwatch runs on body heat


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