The Institute of Vehicle Concepts at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is working with Yamaha to develop thermoelectric generator modules for on-road and rail vehicles.
In “Development of a Thermoelectric Module Suitable for Vehicles and Based on CoSb3 Manufactured Close to Production,” published in the Journal of Electronic Materials, Mirko Klein Altstedde and colleagues explain that ICEs in vehicles typically use only about a third of the potential energy in the fuel for propulsion – the remaining two thirds is lost as waste heat. Thermoelectric generators convert this heat into electricity, which can be used for control units or accessories. In hybrid and plug-in vehicles, the power can be fed directly to the battery. The goal of the DLR scientists is to reduce fuel consumption by 3-5% percent.
The Stuttgart-based Institute of Vehicle Concepts has already developed and successfully tested systems based on thermoelectric generators, but they had to use modules that were not specifically designed for use in vehicles. DLR and Yamaha are now developing vehicle-compatible modules for the next generation of thermoelectric generators.
“With regards to shape, thermal and electrical properties, maximum application temperatures and cycle stability, these have been specially developed to meet our requirements,” said Altstedde. “At the same time, our partner [is developing] the production technology, so that, in future, the modules can be produced as efficiently and economically as possible for the automotive industry.”