There is a tendency toward new technologies and concepts as carmakers are looking for ways to make more efficient cars without sacrificing potency or handling. One car factory, BMW, is looking toward electricity produced by exhaust gas heat and solar power to remove the electrical burden away from the powerplant, thus improving efficiency while reducing emissions of eco-harmful gases.
The carmaker discovered that wasted exhaust heat can be reused to power a thermoelectric generator thereby reducing fuel consumption by as much as 5 percent.
The advantage is derived from storing the electricity and using it to warm-up the engine or power the air-conditioning unit. Solar panels on the roof of BMW cars are also a consideration.
BMW has succeeded in generating 200W from prototypes sufficient for a 1 percent fuel savings with improved solar panels quickly boosting this number. The overarching EfficientDynamics campaign, of which the individual technologies are a part of, is to create more environmentally-conscious vehicles and at the same time keeping driving dynamics.
This second-generation EfficientDynamics technology will be showcasing by 2014. Until then, fuel-saving stop-start mechanisms will make a showing on BMW's automatic vehicles, which is at this time available on manuals only. Also expected to make a showing is the new ZF-derived 8-speed automatic.
Other futuristic technologies BMW is delving into consists of regenerative braking, stop-start engine technology, adaptable front face aerodynamics, electric power steering and a satellite-based traffic management system which aids in improving efficiency by anticipating when acceleration or braking is required, while making the transitions between the two as seamless as possible consequently improving fuel economy.
It is pointed out by BMW that in Germany alone up to 12 billion liters (3.17 billion gallons) of fuel are wasted in traffic jams and other road obstacles every year. It is not only BMW that is pushing fuel-saving technologies. Honda is working on a similar Rankine Cycle where exhaust gas is used to heat water producing steam that powers a turbine to generate electricity.
Such a process can generate up to 32kW although the weight of the device reduces saving to 3.8 percent at 100km/h (62mph) speed in a 2.0 liter direct-injection four-cylinder gasoline engine. Volkswagen has also made it known that it is working on a thermoelectric exhaust system comparable to that of BMW.