Effects of Design Parameters on Fuel Economy and Output Power in an Automotive Thermoelectric Generator

The need for more sustainable mobility promoted research into the use of waste heat to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. As such, thermoelectric generation is a promising technique thanks to its robustness and simplicity. Automotive thermoelectric generators (ATEGs) are installed in the tailpipe and convert heat directly into electricity. Previous works on ATEGs mainly focused on extracting the maximum amount of electrical power. However, the back pressure caused by the ATEG heavily influences fuel consumption. Here, an ATEG numerical model was first validated with experimental data and then applied to investigate the effects that modifying the main ATEG design parameters had on both fuel economy and output power. The cooling flow rate and the geometrical dimensions of the heat exchanger on the hot side and the cold side of the ATEG were varied. The design that produced the maximum output power differed from that which maximized fuel economy. Back pressure was the most limiting factor in attaining fuel savings. Back pressure values lower than 5 mbar led to a < 0.2% increase in fuel consumption. In the ATEG design analyzed here, the generation of electrical output power reduced fuel consumption by a maximum of 0.5% ​
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