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 directly.
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.