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The rising cost of oil is making expensive fuel-saving technologies more and more viable

as prices continue to go upwards at the pumps. Researchers at the Ohio State University
and at Caltech in California have developed a method of increasing fuel efficiency by
10% using a special material that converts exhaust heat into electricity.

Dubbed 'thermoelectric' material, the lead researcher for the project described it as
performing the same task as "conventional heat engines that are coupled to electrical
generators" but instead of using water or gases to make electricity it uses electrons

Currently, conventional automobile engines only use around 25% of the energy they
process in actually operating the car, with the remainder not being utilized. This
revolutionary new material eliminates a portion of the wasted energy that cars are unable
to use due to inefficient energy processes - although the technology itself is not
completely new, having been used by NASA previously.

With a timeline for market release in the range of five to ten years, the system could be
implemented for as little as $10 per unit if produced in large enough quantities - a factor
which would be determined largely by automobile companies.

BMW is working on a very similar system, and Honda at one point developed its own
version but does not appear to be continuing its research.


Comments (8 total)

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1. By James #1, Posted: 7/28/2008

You pictured a Gallardo with this article. It gets, what, 10-12 mpg if the driver
feathers the throttle? So a 10-percent gain is a whopping 1.2 mpg (being
generous). This car costs, oh, the moon. IOW, I don't think Gallardo owners will
be holding their breath hoping this development arrives soon.
Seriously, paraphrasing the old cliche, 10-percent here and 10-percent there and
soon you're talking real percentages.

2. By Nelson #2, Posted: 7/28/2008

The Gallardo was pictured for its rather attractive tailpipes, not its fuel efficiency.

3. By Andrew #3, Posted: 7/28/2008

Not in the LP560, James. It's already improved significantly at the pump. Which
means more improvement!

4. By NoNameDenton #4, Posted: 7/28/2008

How many of the people who can afford a Lambo actually worry about being able
to buy the fuel for it?

5. By chris #5, Posted: 7/28/2008

it's not so much the owner/operators of the lambos that are concerned with final
drive efficiency but the company itself which may have to levy very large fines as
early as 2011 because the EU is going to clamp down on CO2 emissions.

and then the owners will care when they have to pay $40,000 more on their lambo
purchase just to offset the fines (cause god nows that lambo won't be dipping into
the profits from the lupo and golf sales)

6. By Gus #6, Posted: 7/28/2008

chris, once again, nails it.

7. By NoNameDenton #7, Posted: 7/28/2008

Lambo can afford to pay the fines, like Porsche does, since it is one of the most
profitable car manufaturers.

8. By burke #8, Posted: 7/29/2008

The discovery of thermoelectricy goes way back and it is not credited to NASA . I
use thermoelectric couples attached to multimeters to run labs every year. Many
others have been thinking about using the difference in temperatures in the oceans
to produce electricity able power cities for quite some time. Willian Thomson,
Lord Kelvin, predicted the thermoelectric effect in 1851. If the "new"
thermoelectric technology is to be applied to hybrid (gas-electric) cars, then the
heat engine efficiency could translate into gas mileage gains indeed (the article
does not explicitly state this). However, I wouldn't be so sure about the gas
mileage gains in the numbers the aricle says. Hybrid technology adds reasonable
weight to cars for electric motors and coupling gears are usually very heavy stuff;
and the heavier the car the lower the gas mileage. On the other hand, the hybrid
version of any car today will be more expensive than the ordinary car simply
because hybrid cars have more parts... :-)

TIGERS: Exhaust Gas to Electricity for Reductions in Fuel Consumption

21 September 2005
British engineers have developed a simple mechanism for
recovering energy from engine exhaust gases that could
potentially reduce vehicle fuel consumption by up to 10%.

The TIGERS—Turbo-generator Integrated Gas Energy Recovery

System—consortium (a Foresight vehicle project) diverts exhaust
gases to drive a small switched reluctance generator to create
TIGERS. The switched reluctance
enough electricity to power a car’s electrical system. generator is in yellow.

The small turbo-generator is installed in a by-pass waste pipe fitted just below the engine
exhaust manifold. A valve linked to the engine’s management control system allows
some of the high-energy exhaust gases to pass through a turbine to drive the generator,
depending on engine load conditions.

Typically the 800º C gases have a velocity of 60m/s and a mass flow rate of 0.05 kg/s,
providing enough energy to spin the generator at up to 80,000 rpm and create electrical
power of up to 6kW—sufficient to handle the car’s electrical systems.

An energy management system will ensure optimal utilization of the available energy.
During highway driving, when the available exhaust energy is high, the energy will be
captured and the excess power will be stored in a battery. However, at engine idle the
penalty for recovery is high and so the vehicle will be operated in battery only mode.

The researchers have looked at placing the new generator at various locations along the
exhaust system. Placed too far away from the engine, the waste gases start to lose energy,
so in the development stage the generator has been placed just beneath the exhaust
manifold to maximize energy recovered. The gases then pass through the catalytic
converter after the turbine, to ensure that the gases can still be conventionally cleaned.
By placing it close to the manifold the energy available is optimized. This also allows for
shorter runs for control leads and coolant pipes and provides greater protection to the
unit. Disadvantages are that the high temperatures mean the generator has to be water-
cooled and totally sealed. However, the researchers are convinced that they can fully
develop the system and plan to have a fully operating prototype ready for bench testing
within a few months.

Because the system is fairly simple and partly based on existing technology, it could be
fully developed for all car, van, bus and truck engines within a few years.

The simple design of the switched reluctance generator enables a low cost and easy to
manufacture unit to be built that can run reliably at high speeds. It gives the TIGERS
device a power density of approximately three times that of a typical alternator. An
efficiency in excess of 80% can be achieved compared with 60% for traditional

Dr Richard Quinn, one of the engineers leading the TIGERS project, says the system
could be developed to produce anything from 12v to 600v.

The recovered energy could power all of a car’s heating, lighting, air conditioning and in-
car entertainment systems. Longer term, the cam belt, drive belts and alternator could be
scrapped with the TIGERS-recovered power providing electrical drive instead for further
potential for gains in engine efficiency.

The additional electrical energy could be used to power more advanced engine
technologies, such as electro-magnetic valve actuation, electric intake charge cooling,
electric-powered super-charging or electrical exhaust after-treatment.

Parasitic losses from mechanical support systems (i.e., belt-driven) can normally be as
high as 6kW or 8hp in a family sedan but can be significantly higher in larger capacity
cars and trucks. Moving from those mechanical systems to electrical removes those loses,
and fuel consumption could be reduced from between 5%–10%.

In a hybrid electric car the TIGERS system could feed the extra power directly to the
drive motors or back to the battery to increase the range of the vehicle.

On commercial vehicles the extra electricity could be used to power electrical systems to
run refrigeration units for chilled food, turn the motors on cement mixers or power pumps
on fuel tankers.

The TIGERS group comprises researchers from Visteon UK Ltd in Coventry, Switched
Reluctance Drives of Harrogate and The University of Sheffield Electrical Machines &
Drives Research Group.

Switched Reluctance Drives is a leader in switched reluctance technology and is

developing a high-speed generator to work in this demanding environment. The
University of Sheffield research group is applying its knowledge of electrical system
modelling and design to optimise the control and energy storage system.

Visteon is the lead partner in the project and is one of the world’s leading Tier 1
automotive suppliers. It is responsible for the system design, testing and implementation.


• 300 kW Switched Reluctance Generator for Hybrid Vehicle Applications (Delphi)

September 21, 2005 in Engines, Fuel Efficiency, Vehicle Systems | Permalink | Comments (58) |
TrackBack (2)

6 kW is way above the non-AC accessory load of passenger vehicles. A couple hundred
watts for lamps, another hundred for the audio, 100 for the computer and EFI and 50 for
the instrument clusters and you're up to a whole 450.

The only way this works is with an integrated starter-generator or IMA to convert the
excess power into motion. This also works well with an energy-recovery turbine as a
replacement for the throttle plate; the more the engine is throttled back, the more
energy/stroke is available from the pressure drop across the intake.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet | September 21, 2005 at 10:01 AM

80% efficiency? What kind of efficiency do they mean? The theroetical max mechanical
efficiency of turbines is only 69%. It couldn't be thermal efficiency. That would leave the
gases way too cool for the catalytic converter.

Posted by: tom | September 21, 2005 at 02:22 PM

Bill's great grampa Hank sold flex fuel Model Ts. There was an adjustable fuel jet so
farmers could enrich the mixture to run on home brew. Then Prohibition came along and
ended that idea. So what else is new?

Posted by: tom | September 21, 2005 at 02:38 PM

80% efficieny is for converting mechanical to electric energy in the SR machine. Better
than today's alternator but far from the efficiency of a high speed PM motor.

Posted by: nike | September 22, 2005 at 02:15 AM

Nice to see switched reluctance technology appearing in the real world.

SR motors/generators are cheap to produce (no expensive materials like in a PM motor),

lightweight, robust and can have efficiencies in excess of 90%. The thing that has
traditionally held them back is that controlling them requires microchip controlled power
electronics, but with modern semiconductor tech that is not much of a problem anymore.

Posted by: joib | September 22, 2005 at 05:19 AM

Would this system work on an engine that has a turbocharger on it?

Posted by: A.Syme | September 22, 2005 at 06:00 AM

On a turbocharger? Certainly; I believe something of the sort is in the works, though it

may not use switched reluctance motors.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet | September 22, 2005 at 06:39 AM

Turbo-compounding was used in some of the last large piston engined aircraft 50 years
I would have thought that placing the turbo downstream of the catalytic converter would
make the heat generated there available for conversion.

Posted by: tom | September 22, 2005 at 10:08 AM

Interesting that you would mention the large aircraft engines of the 1950's. These engines
had a mechanical supercharger, the turbo-compounding was done through three exaust
turbines linked to the chrankshaft through fluid drives. It gave them very good fuel
economy with their 3350 cubic in engines, rated at 3400 hp for take off. The secret to
their success is that an aircraft engine usually runs at 75% of its rated horsepower. This
gave the turbine plenty of gas flow to draw power from. They were very complicated and
suffered from reliabilty problems. The situation is different for an automobile where the
engine is running at more like 15% of it's rated hp.

Posted by: A.Syme | September 22, 2005 at 05:48 PM

Exactly! Thats mean we can all use 1000cc engines instead of 5000cc fuel drinking
engines and still serve us more then enough. If we add hybrid technology to the 1000cc
engines, and here comes efficiency.

Posted by: rexis | September 22, 2005 at 06:08 PM

Yay! Where do I go to buy one? I've wanted something like this since I bought my Honda
Insight, 2 1/2 years ago, but don't have the workshop facilities to try building my own.

Posted by: James | September 23, 2005 at 12:36 AM

Yay! Where do I go to buy one? I've wanted something like this since I bought my Honda
Insight, 2 1/2 years ago, but don't have the workshop facilities to try building my own.

Posted by: James | September 23, 2005 at 12:37 AM

Why does this use an exhaust bypass? Why not use the entire exhaust on the turbine? Or
possibly a recycle of catalytically rehabilitated exhaust reformed as a hydrogen-
hydrocarbon mixture,to boost electrical generation during idling? No mention is made of
catalytic treatment of exhaust before feed into the TIGER, or the possibility of an air
intake, which would turn this device into a kind of air brake, or even a transmission
flywheel. That makes it appropriate for trucks, which are big enough to justify this kind
of capital addition.

Posted by: jcrack | September 23, 2005 at 07:51 PM

Turbines like a certain flow rate through them; too low and the pressure ratio and energy
recovery drop through the floor, too much and the back pressure goes through the roof.
A turbine which works well at cruise flow-rates will be seriously backed up with the
engine at maximum power. There are two ways to deal with this: variable nozzles and
waste gates. Waste gates are simpler and more reliable than variable nozzles; the
designers appear to have selected a waste gate.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet | September 24, 2005 at 11:45 PM

So basically if they were to put a turbocharger on the exhaust manifold the traditional
way, then adapt one of these Tigers to fit to the air side of the turbo then basically the
heat the turbo generates will be converted into electricity and the vehicle will make lots
of horsepower because it's turbo and have increased fuel efficiency because it's hybrid.
Think of a 96 turbo mitsubishi eclipse only hybrid with multiple collection techniques.
This would be even better if the power collected was sent to a battery that was also
getting power from the brakes and flywheel. Is this theoretically possible?

Posted by: Elliot | September 27, 2005 at 01:13 AM


I have read youer article on TIGERS. I am very much interested in marketing the product
in Hyderabad, India. At first I would like to fit it on my car for demonstartion. Could you
forward the information of how I could acquire one unit for myself.


Posted by: Ayappa Reddy | October 03, 2005 at 04:07 AM

sir i would like to know more about tiger concept. C ould you please send me the detailed
working principle of TIGER.

Posted by: munawar | December 08, 2005 at 10:22 PM

i have been looling for a device like this to power a hydrogen generating cell for extended
milage. catapillar diesel is introducing something similar for appox 3400 $.is this
generator on the market yet?? thanks bob r.

Posted by: bobby r | December 30, 2005 at 08:18 AM

please advise if this unit is currently available@ price the electric current generated
would be great for hydrogen on demand systems . thank you bob reidel

Posted by: bob reidel | January 06, 2006 at 12:47 PM

i read your article. it's really informative. i want to know how the reluctance generator

Posted by: venkatesh | January 19, 2006 at 08:27 AM

i wish to know about how SRD helps in this project as a generator. please send me more

Posted by: ven katesh | January 19, 2006 at 08:32 AM

Please send further details on TIGERs. Is TIGERS driven using axial or radial turbine?

Posted by: Arnold Liu | February 06, 2006 at 12:35 PM

A charger takes several hp's from the crank, so that turbo has potential and doesn't
obstruct the delicate power composition.

The stabilisation and storage possibly demand new-generation electrical installations.

Posted by: dominick | February 07, 2006 at 11:24 PM

what is the pressure of an exhaust gas ?

Posted by: maulik | February 23, 2006 at 02:12 AM

I am a mechanical engg student .I read about TIGERS
that was a innovative thing ,I want to present a paper
on TIGERS in technical paper presentation so please send me more detailed information
about TIGERS