Using Wasted Energy


When you are an automotive engineer and you are designing a vehicle for maximum fuel efficiency, you use all the energy sources you can find. That’s why design engineers of hybrid vehicles tap the energy that gets wasted when a hybrids brakes are applied. Instead of converting the motion of the vehicle into wasted heat via the brake pads as ordinary cars do, hybrid vehicles have a small generator on each axle that converts the car’s kinetic energy into electricity. This electric power is then fed to the vehicle batteries.

In any internal combustion-powered vehicle, another source of wasted energy is the movement of the exhaust gases that exit the tailpipe. Using these strong gases to power automotive sub-systems isn’t a new concept as superchargers have been doing it for years. The way it works is the exhaust gases are used to spin a turbine that, in turn, drives fresh air into the vehicle’s engine. This allows more air-fuel mixture to be exploded in the cylinders which produces more engine power.

But can this exhaust gas energy be used to increase fuel efficiency? Yes, it can. The Japanese firm YGK recently unveiled a hybrid powertrain that uses exhaust gases to spin an electric generator. In theory, an exhaust turbine-generator could be used to charge the battery pack or even charge a large capacitor for instantaneous use. YGR has named their exhaust energy recovery system the “EER-Hybrid” system. The stunning news is that it reportedly provides a 10-percent boost in overall vehicle efficiency. This is a major improvement in efficiency.

It should be noted that EER systems are not new to those that race Formula One cars. For the last few years, various Formula One teams have been using exhaust gas recovery systems. The energy that they harvest from the powerful exhaust gasses exiting the engine are converted directly into electricity and this is fed back into the electrical system of the race car. It effectively eliminates the drag of an alternator on the car.

So, when will we see the use of EER systems on our street cars? The engineers at YGK are currently working Jaguar and other car manufacturers. In fact, Jaguar is putting an EER system on their new XJR-15 model. The XJR-15 is a supercar but the folks at Jaguar are looking to make a statement of the EER concept before it migrates down into their standard automobiles. Considering the fuel economy involved, it shouldn’t be long before we see a lot more of it on the street.

Source: Holt Fiat of Hurst, TX


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