BMW Shows Off Their Future Heat Energy Recovery Technology

Vision EfficientDynamics | October 20th, 2009 by 11
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In the wake of a new era of energy consumption, society has never been more cautious as to how they use and consume energy on …

In the wake of a new era of energy consumption, society has never been more cautious as to how they use and consume energy on a daily basis. As time progresses, engineers are developing processes that are more environmentally friendly, all the while keeping in mind that efficiency is key.

We, as a society, are just on the cusp of rethinking this entire process called “Efficient Dynamics”, a term synonymously coined by BMW, means much more than just a traditional buzz word. In summation, it means taking what already exists, what we already know, and make it better and more powerful all the while keeping efficiency at the forefront.

Refining processes, delivery methods and identifying points of waste are just some of the items engineers and designers keep in mind when creating the future Ultimate Efficient Dynamic Drive Machines! One area that the cars of today are very wasteful in is the conversion of energy from fuel.

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It has been said that even the most efficient car can only convert one-third of the energy contained in fuel to power the car. The other two-thirds are lost in the form of heat through the car’s radiator and exhaust system. BMW has taken this into consideration and looked into some methods of turning the wasted heat into a viable source of energy.

Currently, BMW is working on three different heat-harnessing technologies. They are concentrating on harnessing the heat energy to help improve overall fuel consumption while reducing CO2 emissions. The first, out of three, ideas BMW has doctored revolves around the idea that eliminates cold starts for the life of the car, ultimately reducing emissions. The second involves converting the heat released from the car’s exhaust into electricity. Lastly, the third idea uses the wasted heat to warm the cabin of the car.

For the first method, BMW engineers have taken the engine and essentially wrapped a blanket around it. The motor will be encased in an insulated chamber so that the motor does not cool down too quickly. I could see this being a bit of a problem in the summer months or parts of the globe with warmer climates. Even track days could see a bit of trouble if proper ventiliation options aren’t provided. But, since BMW drivers like to actually DRIVE their cars, they have come up with a solution to protect and cool key engine components from the increased heat. BMW has calculated that each degree in Celsius above the ambient temperature the engine reaches, reduces the usage of fuel by 0.2 percent. This method will keep the engine at a warm 40 degrees Celsius for up to 12 hours after being turned off!

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The second method involves the conversion of exhaust heat into electricity. On average about three to eight percent of fuel consumption in cars is due to the electrical needs of the car. BMW countered this figure with an thermoelectric generator placed inside the exhaust gas recirculation cooler system. This technology can harness up to 250 W of energy, which is half the onboard energy needs of a 5 series. In terms of fuel conservation, this equates to about a two percent savings in gas consumption. This very technology was first used in the 1960’s on spacecrafts. Does this make future BMWs spaceage technology? Well let you be the judge of that!

The third and final method involves the idea of quickly warming up the drivetrain of the car. This is to be achieved via an exhaust gas heat exchanger, which conveys heat from one flowing source to another. Standard gasoline cars will be the biggest beneficiary to this as the modern day diesel cars are too efficient to generate enough heat.

All three methods are still in the works and you will most likely not see them on your next BMW for quite some time. It just goes to prove that BMW is engineering by their mantra, Efficient Dynamics and provides confidence to the consumer that they are buying an environmentally conscious machine that is fun to drive while staying green.

[Source: MotorAuthority ]

11 responses to “BMW Shows Off Their Future Heat Energy Recovery Technology”

  1. Beach says:

    Wow, that’s really hot! No, really, HOT! I like their energy recovery shock absorbers, that seems like a truly innovative way to generate power.

  2. X5SoB says:

    The KERS technology seems to offer more promise than wrapping the engine in a thermos. The main thing most engineers try to do is PREVENT the engine from overheating. Wouldn’t this this cause all kinds of damage, from seals to electrical to hoses to etc?

    • Horatiu B. says:

      I have a feeling they got that part covered :) It’s still great to see that automakers are pushing the envelope all the time. While some of the things we see or hear might not see the daylight, the research process can give some great ideas in the future.

      • The Lee says:

        I’m not so sure. A lot of BMW’s systems rely on nothing bad happening in the first place.

        The same thermodynamics that make the BMW EngineSnuggie work to improve efficiency at start-up apply when the engine builds up excess heat either due to a malfunctioning (neglected) cooling system or simply stuck in stop-and-go traffic in a warm environment.

        The concept is sound. I can absolutely see where BMW is going with this… I’m just not sure that it will turn out to be a fantastic idea in the long run.

        • Doug says:

          LOL. Engine Snuggie.

          The problem with all of these is that they’re so unfocused. What carmakers need to do is develop a thermally insulating coating for the cylinders, pistons, heads and exhaust manifolds so the heat is focused tightly for a very high temp differential (and never gets into the engine block or dissipates to other components). There are some composites that do this quite well, used on theof the leading edges on some aerospace applications.

          Having concentrated most of the heat energy on the exhaust, you add an air-to-air or air-to-water thermocouple there, perhaps combined with a catalytic converter (assuming it’s not cooled too much). THe temperature differential will be enourmous, and you will gain FAR more power from a much smaller, simpler unit. Additionally, you will save weight on water/plumbing/radator as well as exhaust system since that has been condensed.

          All these scattered parts gathering a few percent of the wasted thermal energy is not really shooting high enough.

          However, the electric shock idea is a very good one (I think Bose owns the patents on this though).

    • wazon says:

      I wouldn’t worry about overheating coming from using system that keeps engine warm. BMW has too great engineers to make such simple and stupid mistake, so if it appeared in production, it would work well for sure. And if it indeed worked, I would be glad to have such system in my car, since I hate cold start after night, espacially that in winter I have minus 10 or minus 15 degree of Celcius outside.

      • The Lee says:

        I’m as big a BMW fan as anyone else on this blog, but I can’t really agree with that statement of “BMW has too great engineers to make such simple and stupid mistake, so if it appeared in production, it would work well for sure.”

        Ask anyone with an E46 or newer BMW about window regulators. Ask the E36 (and other M50/52 platforms) about water pumps. Ask the N62 guys about the vacuum pump and its tendency to flood the brake booster with oil…

        The bottom line is that these systems are designed by humans, which inherently will make mistakes. I’d even go as far as to say that BMW (and every other car manufacturer on this earth) doesn’t spend nearly enough time in R&D testing a vehicle before launch. It’s just simply not realistic given the market demands of churning out a new model NOW!

        There will be issues, and I’m sure BMW will either continue to resolve the issues as they come to light (many will likely be after the vehicle’s launch) or they’ll just scrap the idea before even implementing it on a retail vehicle.

        • X5 SoB says:

          You’re saying that BMW doesn’t have “too great engineers”? Heresy!

        • wazon says:

          Stuffs about which you usually reveal after some time of using a car and milage(especially, problems with water pumps in E36). Contrary to it, overheating of engine with properely working cooling system is something that you can totally check right now. It’s enough to push a car hard. It’s not plausible at all that such easy to discover malfunction would pass pre-production tests.

          BTW, I haven’t heard about particular problem with window regulator in E46 (I even had 330ci E46 and hadn’t noticed it) and suppose when it appeared, it came from bigger malfunction of electric net with which few of my friends told me. The biggest problem with E46 about which I know is problem with fasten of rear axle to platform in early production models. But once again, it’s something that revealed after some milage and not in each E46 from early production phase.

          • The Lee says:

            We replace countless window regulators in E46s, E39s and E53s on a regular basis. Their “great engineers” really screwed the pooch on those things. The cable and pulley system is absolute garbage. Same goes with the cable systems in primarily E34 and E39 seats (have yet to see if they got any better with the E60, time will tell).

            Cyclone seperators. If you’re not familiar with that phrase and you drive something with an M54 in it, you’d better read up as you’ll be replacing it at some point in the not-so-distant future.

            The rear subframe on the E46 is weak. Or, more accurately, the portion of the unibody where the subframe mounts to is weak. Woo hoo for unreinforced sheet metal! I’m a bit jaded about that issue particularly as I had to take a $20k loss on my E46 M3 because of it. Thank you, BMW. We’ve seen (and repaired using the Turner Motorsport kit) a few cracked rear subframe mounts.

            Just be glad it’s not an E36… They had weak front and rear subframe/strut towers. There’s nothing quite like having to hack and weld on your otherwise OEM car because BMW just didn’t put much thought into mounting an integral portion of the car’s chassis to tissue paper.

            Then we get into sunroof cassettes. I’ve seen them fail as early as 35k miles (but out of warranty due to age). Most of them manage to somehow make it to 100k. The dual-sunroof cassette in my E34 touring is trash, too, but with 262k+ miles, I’ll give it a break.

  3. KidrauhlM5 says:

    BMW is really pushing this to the limit… I think after their no longer involvement in F1, the can concentrate to this more and help to save our earth… This is looking good to be honest… Great job BMW!!!

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