Power and Fuel Economy of a Radial Automotive Thermoelectric Generator: Experimental and Numerical Studies

Recent developments of high performance thermoelectric (TE) materials have increased the interest of using this technology to directly convert waste heat into electricity. In the automotive sector, many automotive thermoelectric generators (ATEGs) designs use TE modules (TEMs) with high hot side temperatures to cope with high engine load regimes. Here, we develop a new concept of a radial ATEG that is specifically designed to work with low temperature TEMs, which enables the use of Pb-free modules and reduces the thermal stress of the device. A prototype is built and tested at different regimes in an engine test bench. A numerical model of the ATEG is developed and validated. The consequences of modifying (1) the exchange area between the heat absorber and the exhaust gases and (2) the effective figure of merit of TEMs on the electrical output power and fuel economy are investigated by means of simulations. Results indicate that the maximum fuel economy (1.3%) is not attained at the point of maximum output power (228 W). In terms of fuel economy, the back pressure at the exhaust penalizes high mass flow regimes. We use a dimensionless parameter to analyze the potential of the ATEG for reducing fuel consumption ​
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