FRANKFURT, Germany.—Tenneco Inc. said it is part of a consortium actively developing a solution for capturing waste exhaust heat in vehicles and converting it to electrical energy.
The Thermoelectric Generator for light vehicle applications would power electrical systems within the vehicle, supporting auto makers' strategies for improved fuel economy, Tenneco said. The first rapid prototype of a TEG will be on display at Tenneco's booth at the 2013 Frankfurt IAA Motor Show.
In a typical internal combustion engine, approximately 30 percent of the fuel energy is used for actual vehicle propulsion, Tenneco said, while more than 70 percent is lost.—about half through the vehicle's exhaust system. Thermoelectric generators help capture a portion of the lost energy, convert it to electricity and redistribute it to electrical systems in the vehicle, ultimately supporting improved fuel efficiency.
Tenneco said it has added its experience in heat recovery technology and thermal management to an industry consortium tasked with optimizing the design, validation and testing of thermoelectric generators for light vehicles. Gentherm, a global developer of thermal management technologies for the automotive industry is partnering with Tenneco, as are two global vehicle manufacturers.
"While vehicle manufacturers have made significant progress in achieving emissions reduction and fuel economy, new technologies must be developed throughout the vehicle to address engines running at higher temperatures and with greater loads. With waste heat recovery, heat that would not otherwise be recycled can be put to use within the vehicle," said Wolfgang Reuter, vice president, sales and engineering, Tenneco Clean Air Europe.
The TEG is a unique heat exchanger that integrates cylindrical-shaped cartridges, according to Tenneco. Thermoelectric material is sandwiched together within the cartridges that are exposed to hot exhaust gas on one side and to engine coolant on the other side. The temperature gradient over the thermoelectric material results in a continuous electrical current flow, which is then redistributed to the vehicle.
The modular design of the TEG enables packaging scalability depending on vehicle design, the company added, making it more cost-effective to integrate into the vehicle's exhaust system.
Tenneco is responsible for the overall system layout and integration, including validation testing for the project. TEGs must undergo rigorous durability testing, using a wide range of exhaust gas temperatures. The test process must also simulate harsh operating conditions on the underbody of the vehicle, such as road bumps, salt corrosion and other examples of severe conditions.
Testing and validation for the TEG is being conducted at Tenneco's global emissions technical centers in Edenkoben, Germany, and Grass Lake, Mich. The consortium anticipates that initial demonstrator models will be available in early 2014.
Tenneco designs, manufactures and markets clean air and ride performance products and systems for automotive and commercial vehicle original equipment markets and the aftermarket. Its principal brands are Monroe, Walker, XNOx and CleviteElastomer.