• Mar 10th 2009 at 9:32AM
  • 28
Baby steps. That's how BMW expects to improve the efficiency of its vehicles – not by revolutionizing the automobile or replacing the internal-combustion engine, but by improving it. The Bavarian automaker's Efficient Dynamics program includes a roster of fuel-saving technologies like regenerative braking and start-stop engine management, but the second generation of the initiative looks to the heavens for inspiration. Specifically, to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NASA's satellites are powered by thermo-electric generators (TEDs) which derive electricity from the heat generated by radioactive materials. BMW has no intention of putting plutonium in your car, but is working with NASA to adapt the TEDs to hook up to the car's exhaust system and provide some 200 watts of what would otherwise be (and until now has been) wasted energy. Capturing the heat to power auxiliary systems like climate control, BMW says the system could improve fuel economy by 5%. Not a revolutionary figure, but more than the contribution of both regenerative braking and start-stop combined.

[Source: CAR]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      First off, it's a TEG (as in generator), and it is a material that converts waste heat (from the exhaust) into electricity (as in to downsize the alternator and reduce drag on the engine). There is little magic involved--no turbines and very few flux capacitors--but it is an idea that shows a lot of promise, especially for large engines which waste a lot of the fuel energy as exhaust heat.
        • 6 Years Ago
        right. Zero moving parts so it is very reliable. It is basically an array of thermocouples. Not very efficient, but when the energy source is free is doesn't matter as much as a Watts per kg or watts per $.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Didn't VW debut the very same thing last month?

      • 6 Years Ago
      good to see them take this on

      and where is that steam system they were working on a while back (you know the one that drew heat out the engine adn stored the steam for a boost when you accelerate)
      maybe they found some issues they can't resolve with it

      hope this works out better

      • 6 Years Ago
      Wouldn't a more efficient approach be to make the engines more efficient?

      I hear they have a lot of wasted heat...
        • 6 Years Ago
        What? Seriously, I've heard the most inefficient part about modern engines is the excess energy lost in the form of radiant heat.
      • 6 Years Ago

      Even better. Autoblog reported it already on Feb. 10th.
      • 6 Years Ago
      they've been talking about this for years now. only this time NASA is involved, must be official. Hey, another way to drive BMW prices up!
      • 6 Years Ago
      How about just making the cars lighter? Wouldn't that be even more efficient?
      • 6 Years Ago
      This seems like a lot of work to save 1/3HP.

      And on a turbocharged car where the exhaust heat is even lower, I have to imagine it would yield even less power.
        • 6 Years Ago
        exhaust heat is lower in turbo charged cars than in non turbo cars? i may be a car Noob(or noob in general) but how does the temperature go down in an isovolumetric process when you increase the pressure?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Increase the pressure? You don't increase the pressure in the exhaust system in any car, including a turbocharged one.

        Turbochargers use the waste energy in exhaust to compress the intake charge. So a combination of exhaust cooling and expanding (take your pick, I'm sure you know they are basically the same thing) drives the exhaust vanes on the turbocharger, which are mechanically coupled to the intake (compressor) vanes which then pump intake air into the car faster.

        Exhaust systems are not isovolumetric, the tailpipe is open to the atmosphere. The air in the exhaust moves faster and is less dense at the opening, which is why it isn't thousands of degrees when it leaves the exhaust system unlike when it enters.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dont Lexus have this already.....

      The New RX Hybrid does.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like it will have to be a complex system just to gain a little energy. I'm thinking a core unit similar to a radiator working in your tailpipe to capture the heat.

      If people have issues with a urea filter on diesels, this is definitely not gonna fly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Whoopie! A Zepplin!!

      A turbocharger impeller hooked up to a little generator, instead of a compressor.

      • 6 Years Ago
      When I first read about this, I had two thoughts. First, what a great idea. Second, that's going to be bleepin expensive to fix.
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