Early look at BMW’s next wave of EfficientDynamics technology

The installation of a thermoelectric generator could improve fuel economy by as much as 5%

The installation of a thermoelectric generator could improve fuel economy by as much as 5%

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As manufacturers seek ways to create more efficient cars without compromising power or driveability, eyes are increasingly turning to new technologies and ideas. BMW is looking to electricity generated by exhaust gas heat and solar power to take the electrical load off the engine and thereby improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

In fact, BMW has found that reusing the otherwise wasted exhaust heat to power a thermoelectric generator could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 5%. The benefit comes from storing the electricity and using it to pre-heat the engine or power the air-conditioning systems. BMW is also working on employing solar panels on the roofs of its cars. Prototypes have achieved 200W output levels, enough to improve fuel efficiency by about 1%, and more advanced solar panel designs could easily improve on this figure.

The individual technologies are part of the overarching EfficientDynamics campaign to create more environmentally-aware cars while maintaining the driving dynamics. Speaking with CAR, BMW development boss Klaus Draeger said this second-generation of EfficientDynamics technology will be appearing in showrooms by 2014. Before then, we’ll start to see fuel-saving engine stop-start mechanisms available on BMW’s automatic models (currently it’s available on manuals only) as well as the introduction of a new ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic.

Other future technologies BMW is working on include regenerative braking, stop-start operation, variable frontal aerodynamics, electric power steering and a satellite-aided traffic management system that helps improve efficiency by anticipating when acceleration or braking will be necessary, and smoothing out the transitions between the two, resulting in better fuel economy. In Germany alone, BMW estimates that up to 12 billion liters (3.17 billion gallons) of fuel are wasted annually in traffic jams and other road hindrances.

BMW isn’t the only carmaker pushing the envelope when it comes to fuel-saving technologies. Honda's similar work on the Rankine Cycle, which uses exhaust gas to heat water, creating steam that spins a turbine to generate electricity, has found as much as 32kW can be generated by the method, though the weight penalty for the device reduces fuel efficiency benefits to 3.8% at a 100km/h (62mph) cruise in a 2.0L direct-injection petrol four-cylinder. Volkswagen, too, has announced that it’s working on a thermoelectric exhaust system similar to BMW’s one.
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Comments (5)
  1. Those pics of the guys driving look fake for some reason.. maybe it's just me.

  2. to hell with exhaust gasses, why not use that same technology on the cooling system. theres a hell of a lot more waste heat sitting in the coolant than there is in the exhaust gasses.

    I like the idea of it though. we've got so much electronic and electrical equipment on today's cars that the electrical systems need to be beefed up. with electric steering, and almost certainly electric brake boost (if not just electric brakes), the electricity bill adds up. and the alternator is a huge sink for torque off the engine.

    the ideal of the heat recovery sounds great to me. thats where 70% of your energy goes: heat. even if you can recover 10% of it, you'll improve mileage quite a bit.

  3. Cool, I'd never thought of that, using a turbo to make electricity basically. I'm surprised the Prius doesn't use it.

  4. The talented people at Los Alamos National Laboratory have come up with a better solution IMO. They need a major automotive manufactures to help fund the research and adaptation of their “Acoustic Stirling Heat engine” into the exhaust system of an automobile. Such a device adapted for automotive purposes could not only produce electricity, but could provide the refrigeration needs of the vehicles air-conditioning system.


    The same principles have been adapted by engineers at Nottingham University in England. They have designed a stove that can cook a meal, generate electricity and make ice cubes. This stove was a product of a “SCORE” project and was intended to provide a positive solution to the 2 billion people in developing countries that cook over an open flame.

  5. Isn't BMW making electric power steering devices already? I was under the impression that that was one of the biggest problems most scribes had with the previous Z4...

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