The International Thermoelectric Society website reported that Volkswagen showed a prototype vehicle equipped with a thermoelectric generator, recovering the dissipated heat energy and converting it into electricity. The prototype has been shown at the “Thermoelektrik – Eine Chance Fi¼r Die Atomobillindustrie?” meeting held in Berlin in October 2008.
Purportedly the thermoelectric generator is able to gain about 600W from a car running on a highway, meeting about 30% of the car’s electrical consumption requirements. For the moment, the thermoelectric generators haven’t been embedded in a hybrid car, although VW says with the current setup it can save about 5% of your fuel consumption (not 5L/100km, but 5% of 5L).
BMW and DLR (German Aerospace) also competed with Volkswagen by showing a system with a 200W output. They say it has been used for more than 12,000 km. They are both integrating TEGs with future gasoline powertrains. BMW even has them in their plan for the 2010 – 2014 Series 5 cars.
These are nice innovations. If used properly in a hybrid car, this type of systems could charge the vehicle’s battery, fact that would be much more useful than only at those times when air conditioning and lights are being used.