Gasoline-powered, internal combustion engines are notoriously inefficient. Some estimates say as much as 70 percent of the fuel's energy is lost to friction and heat. An Automotive News story has engineers saying that only three percent is due to friction. To engineers, that's a huge pot of low-hanging, fuel-efficiency fruit.

Chrysler and Dana Holding Corp. have developed a "thermal management system" (highlighted in blue in the photo above) for the 2013 Dodge Ram that takes advantage of some of that heat. The truck's engine coolant is re-routed to bring the 2013 Dodge Ram's transmission to optimum operating temperature more quickly. When cold, honey-like transmission fluid drags on the powertrain. The sooner it warms up, the less fuel is wasted. The company claims the system improves fuel economy by two percent.

The system may be adapted for other Chrysler vehicles in the future. Similar systems from Dana are also being used on the Ford Edge where it adds about one percent to fuel economy.

Since a vehicle's engine also needs heat to operate efficiently, catalytic converter supplier Tenneco is working on a system that uses exhaust heat to warm the gooey transmission fluid.

For the future, though, Tenneco hopes to use waste heat to eliminate power-sucking alternators. The company is experimenting with thermocouple technology to convert heat directly into electricity. Current thermocouple hardware can convert one to three percent of exhaust heat into electricity. Tenneco says if it can improve that to as much as five percent, enough current can be generated to charge your car's battery with no drain on the engine. Standing in the way of thermocouple tech use on cars is its super high cost. The company hopes within six years to bring the price down 90 percent.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      Lamgineer
      • 2 Years Ago
      One gallon of gasoline has about 40kwh of potential energy stored in it, so 2 gallons of gasoline = 80kwh, which is almost the same amount of energy stored in the Tesla Model S top-of-line battery pack (85kwh). If the internal-combustion engine (ICE) is 100% efficiency, it should go 125 miles on 1-gallon of gas! Do we have any ICE car that can do that? Not even close, a pure-ICE car the size/weight of Model S typically get a MPG of 25, hmm... ICE is only 20% efficiency... 125 miles on 1 gallon of gas x 20% = 25MPG! And people wonder why EV only cost about 20%-25% to drive the same distance as ICE vehicles? If the amount of energy is the same moving an identical weight/shape vehicles (EV or ICE) the same distance, than why are electricity companies selling electricity for 75%-80% off? That's because ICE is only 20% efficiency in convert potential energy into kinetic energy! And large engines at power plants are much more efficiency in converting potential energy in oil into electricity. We are better off taking all the gas from ICE and burn it in the big power generator to power EV. We will get 4 times the mileage out of it, or look at it another way, we will use just a quarter of the oil now to drive the same amount of miles.We are running out of trick to make ICE more efficient than 20% and the irony is the best trick of all lately is to add a small electric motor and small battery pack to improve the ICE efficient by 10-30%... ..I wonder how much more efficient will the vehicle get if we add a large electric motor and large battery pack and get rid of the inefficient ICE? Hmm.. 400% improvement! Wow, so why are we not all doing that? Perhaps because car companies are behind on their technology? Why kill their cash cows now?
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Lamgineer
        You're missing something. Every time you convert one form of energy to another, you lose energy. You could maybe get a gas generator to 30%-40% efficiency if you really had an amazing design. But that doesn't help when ya gotta take that mechanical energy and turn it back into electricity. Then you lose about 10 percent. Convert that to the proper voltage and transmit it across some power lines, then you've lost another 10%. Then once you get that into the battery of the car, you lose another 10%. Then when you take that battery energy and turn it into mechanical energy, you lose yet another 10%. That sir, is a very expensive way to waste energy. *hands you a tissue*
          Lamgineer
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Yes and oil came out of the ground completely refined and into your gas-engine car all on its own for $1/gallon? I think money will start growing on tree before that will ever happen. Truth is how much energy does it require to locate oil field? To bring all the equipments/personal to build the oil drilling rigs? Energy to transport oil from these remote location to the oil refineries? More energy to refine the oil? Even more energy to transport these oils to your local gas stations? And finally you need energy to run a gasoline and operate the pumps to pump gasoline into your car. And people wonder why gas is so expensive at $4+ a gallon when the equivalent cost in electricity to drive the same miles as one gallon of gas is less than $1 a gallon. So once again, if the energy to move the same car (EV or ICE) is the same, why are electricity company so generous in giving us a 75%-80% discount compare to the cost of gasoline? That's because ICE is inefficient and the whole process or explore / drill / transport / refine / transport / pumping / ICE engine is 4 to 5 times more wasteful/expensive to operate compare to electricity.
      Turbo Froggy
      • 2 Years Ago
      How about putting in the small displacement diesel that is available on just about every Chrysler and Dodge vehicle that is sold in Europe in the Ram? This would double DOUBLE the MPG without using any special technology. Ug Dodge/Chrysler sucks, why do they even try, just put a F-ing HEMI in everything.
      PR
      • 2 Years Ago
      When you have to go to this far of an extreme to recoup losses due to gross inefficiencies, it becomes clear that the technology has reached its limits. Time to move on to more advanced technologies with much less inherent inefficiency.
      TPGIII
      • 2 Years Ago
      BMW was working on some heat to electricity schemes awhile back. Usually they look exclusively at exhaust heat, but a near equal amount of heat exits through the radiator. I have long wondered why they don't make radiators out of the same devices that create electricity from heat flow mentioned in this post. This would be especially useful in hybrids where access electricity could be put to better use than just eliminating the alternator.
      horsedrag
      • 2 Years Ago
      Steam generated by waste heat could be used to drive the alt. or add a bit of power but the cost effectiveness of such a system might be prohibitive. In any case diesel is still better then burning our mountain tops in our cars.
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      Or you could use an engine which doesn't waste most of its energy as heat. You could also use a simple transmission that doesn't require sludgelike fluid for lubrication and cooling. While Chrysler looks to make minor improvements to ancient technology other companies are investing in the high tech drive-trains of the future that dramatically improve efficiency.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      HHmmmmmmm, how many moving parts, electrical sensors, and exhaust path/transmission goodies will the internal combustion get up to in the next decade? We need a battery breakthrough. The electric motor > controller > battery > gear reduction unit powertrain is already in the 80%-90% range. Asking more of the internal combustion engine is really picking the high hanging fruit!
      Francisco Hernandez
      • 2 Years Ago
      So why not run transmission fluid through radiator like gm has done for years? Engine coolant already runs through there and it seems to heat up fluid fine. The heat exchange idea for electricity is good though.
      MTN RANGER
      • 2 Years Ago
      How about an ICE / steam engine hybrid?
        Actionable Mango
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        Already in the works for 2015. BMW Turbosteamer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbosteamer
      mrbell321
      • 2 Years Ago
      You know, turbochargers use waste heat energy too. And significantly more efficiently than a thermocouple(btw, I'd love to see a highly efficient thermocouple). How about a ~1L turbo diesel in hybrid setup?
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      The idea of doing something with the waste heat is great but it can be better then just heating up the transmission sooner for a small marginal increment in mpg . What they can try is harnessing the co2 expel from the exhaust and transform it back to fuel.
        SirCody
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Amazing that we can't come up with a technology that makes our cars use the Catalytic Converter more ...Pollution is from the first six miles driving. The Catalytic Converter doesn't do it's job until it has reached a certain temp. That's why the electric cars say 40 miles on a charge is good because of the average mileage to work. If they were preheated before the engine was started then it would do it's job....The platinum in CC are around $100,000.00 a pound....
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Gorr... Go to Khan's Academy and watch a few videos on chemistry. CO2 cannot be used for any fuel or energy supply. It is already in the most stable form and no further energy can be extracted.
          goodoldgorr
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          There is that recent article too.. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/09/joule-audi-20120917.html
          goodoldgorr
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Watch these films on youtube, it's not me that made them. They do fuel with co2. One can then reform the co2 of his/her exhaust while driving and recirculate it back at the fuel tank for re-utilisation later-on. You are advocating to pay a high price for fuel with false informations. Quite often i can back what i say with some youtube films. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9zeHMm4Ub4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk3msbrVkWw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ5mpQqmZaM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89FpRncii-w http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlwEggSswxM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYZ9I_aYYb4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRaLvFiQjZ4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkUdxjS2Lbg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFIqCUo7SrA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwCVlrHfSDY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Exaw5BbHP7o http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15psQDLh3lE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjA7_wgofp4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRAqk9ayBkY&playnext=1&list=PL4B9C2A01BFD8F6A1&feature=results_main http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbxWUxxnKbA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tht2ah0jKTQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCHiyTsLkJc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx6dTMS3dfY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK1lQzSynkc
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Some estimates say as much as 70 percent of the fuel's energy is lost to friction and heat." It is worse than that actually. A 30% efficient car would be great. Most ICE cars are closer to 20% or 25% efficient.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        This is very true! Fuel energy is mostly lost in friction n heat.. Thanks. www.randeep-pipes.com
        ElectricAvenue
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        I was going to say the same thing. Gasoline engines, as far as I understand it, are never as much as 30% efficient. Diesels, maybe.
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