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Car of the Future Will Run on Its Own Waste Energy

Amerigon\'s thermoelectric technology will convert waste heat from car exhaust to electricity.Electricity is the ultimate portable fuel, so running a car on electricity opens a world of possibilities in terms of harvesting and using sustainable energy while on the go.  Thermoelectric innovator Amerigon Incorporated has one especially interesting approach: capture the waste energy from the car’s engine exhaust and recycle it into electric power.  Through its BSST subsidiary and with $1.1 million in backing from the U.S Department of Energy, Amerigon is entering the fifth phase of the project.  Completion is targeted for March 31, 2010, and then look out, world.


Amerigon, BSST and Thermoelectric Energy

Amerigon’s BSST subsidiary has already applied thermoelectric recovery principles to heating and cooling systems.  It’s a logical choice for the project, having developed the highest-efficiency thermoelectric technology achieved so far.  The program kicked off in 2005 with a team including Visteon Corporation, BMW, UC Santa Cruz, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the California Institute of Technology’s Jet propulsion Laboratory.  Ford joined the project after analysis and concept phases established a fuel savings of up to 12% in simulations, and the thermoelectric system was bench-tested in the lab using hot gas instead of actual exhaust.  Phase 4, which is drawing to a close, involves testing the system on a BMW six-cylinder engine.

Cars as Energy Harvesters, and Energy Generators

The new technology promises a sea change in the way we conceive of cars as energy users – and producers.  For example, an electric car that harvests solar energy could also incorporate BSST’s thermoelectric system, while generating kinetic energy as it passes over a roadway – and using available wind as an additional power source.  In the not too distant future, cars that run only on fossil fuels will be just that – fossils.

Image: KoS on wikimediacommons.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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