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Heat Recovery Technology of Automobile Using Thermoelectric Element and Its Effect on Fuel Economy

Article of Honda R&D Technical Review Vol.21 No.2


Prior to the development of a heat recovery system using thermoelectric elements for automobile exhaust heat energy, simulation methods were developed to understand the current technical level and extract issues as well as key technologies.
Generated power not only has a positive effect on automobile fuel economy, but there are also the negative effects of increased weight and backpressure. Effects of fuel economy making full use of thermoelectric technology lie in optimum balance of these factors. Thus, guidelines for optimizing this balance were also developed.
The results showed that heat recovery using existing thermoelectric elements is nearly unable to enhance fuel economy. Elements that exhibit good performance within the temperature range of 100°C to 350°C should be employed, and development of new elements is found to be the key. Furthermore, investigations also showed that a heat recovery system provides approximately twice the fuel economy effects when the engine is operated at constant speed such as in a series hybrid, compared to an ordinary car. These findings provided the outlook that the combination of developing new elements, selecting the optimal car type, insulating the exhaust system, and adopting other technologies leads to enhance fuel economy by 3% or more compared to conventional levels.


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(2) Crane, D., Bell, L.: Design to maximize performance of a thermoelectric power generator with a dynamic thermal power source, ASME 2007 ES2007-36210
(3) LaGrandeur, J., Crane, D., Hung, S., Mazar, B., Eder, A.: Automotive waste heat conversion to electric power using Skutterudite, TAGS, PbTe and BiTe, Proceedings
of the 25th International Conference on Thermoelectrics, p. 343-348 (2006)
(4) LaGrandeur, J., Crane, D., Eder, A.: Vehicle fuel economy improvement through thermoelectric waste heat recovery, Proceedings of the 11th Diesel Engine Emissions Reduction (DEER) Conference (2005)
(5) Mori, M., Yamagami, T., Oda, N., Hattori, M., Haraguchi, T., Sorazawa, M.: Current Possibilities of Thermoelectric Technology Relative to Fuel Economy, SAE Paper, 2009-01-0170 (2009)

Author (organization or company)

Masayoshi MORI(Automobile R&D Center)、Takeshi YAMAGAMI(Automobile R&D Center)、Nobuyuki ODA(Automobile R&D Center)、Makoto HATTORI(Automobile R&D Center)、Tomohide HARAGUCHI(Automobile R&D Center)、Mitsumasa SORAZAWA(Automobile R&D Center)

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