BMW Trots Out their Thermoelectric Tech in 5-Series for Frankfurt

BMW's new EfficientDynamics technology certainly must be seen to believed.

BMW's EfficientDynamics team has been working hard trying to find the en pointe of combustion engine technology. The research and development is the work of the collaboration between the German automaker, Michigan-based Amerigon and the U.S. Department of Energy. According to science, the most fuel-efficient combustion engines available now can only convert roughly one-third of the fuel burned into the energy used to run an automobile.

Energy can be wasted in several ways, which include through the engine's cooling system, exhaust heat, noise and parasitic loss. The German team of scientists and engineers has taken several huge steps in their research, coming up with innovations such as engine encapsulation and a waste heat exchanger for oil heating. These innovations are meant to help recover lost heat and come closer to a waste-free motor. They have also produced a turbosteamer which uses the engine's heat to boil a pressurized fluid.

The ensuing steam powers an expansion turbine which in turn generates electrical energy. The electrical energy created would address the issue of parasitic loss, as it would be implemented as the power source or power steering and air conditioning. The team has procured a thermoelectric generator from NASA. Two thermoelectric semiconductors with different temperatures can produce electrical voltage (called the Seebeck Effect) by using a special material. The electricity generated can also reduce parasitic loss. Their goal for the generator is 1,000 watts of energy, however at the moment they have only achieved 600 watts.

The big picture of BMW's EfficientDynamics is as follows: All these systems have been developed to sit in a production model, based on the 5-Series. They have already seen a 10% increase in fuel savings on a long-distance journey when paired with a 4-cylinder motor. When they decide to couple the new technology with their existing technology ie. engine stop-start, brake energy and vents with active louvers on the grille we deduce the savings could go as high as 20-25%. BMW is bringing their new ultra-efficient technology to next month's 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. We are expecting the new technology to be on display inside one of the new 5-Series bodies.

Read Next