Borla, Alphabet Energy pursue thermoelectric waste heat recovery in next-gen exhaust

  • 23-Jul-2015 11:44 EDT
AE PowerModules.jpg

The coupling of Borla’s advanced exhaust systems with Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule thermoelectric generators (shown) has the potential to capture 5-10% of a truck’s waste heat.

Borla Performance and Alphabet Energy have partnered to jointly develop and commercialize a next-generation exhaust system for trucks that incorporates thermoelectric waste heat recovery. The nonexclusive partnership to deliver what the companies claim will be the industry’s first aftermarket thermoelectric fuel-efficiency product for vehicle internal-combustion engines (ICEs), could yield “significant” fuel savings for truck fleets.

Sixty percent of the energy from fuel used in cars and trucks escapes through the exhaust tailpipe as waste heat, noted Dr. Matthew L. Scullin, Founder and CEO, Alphabet Energy. To help prevent this energy drain in the proposed system, “an Alphabet Energy PowerModule is incorporated into the design of a Borla exhaust so the PowerModule acts as a thermoelectric generator (TEG), capturing the waste heat and converting it into electric power,” he explained to SAE Magazines. “This improves fuel efficiency because it reduces the alternator loads, and in some cases, might replace the alternator entirely.”

The coupling of Borla’s advanced exhaust systems with Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule TEG has the potential to capture 5-10% of a car or truck’s waste heat. This captured heat can be used to power the electrical components on a vehicle normally powered by the alternator, such as lights, heating, air-conditioning, sound, and navigation systems. As a result, the next-gen exhaust system could deliver a fuel savings of 3-6%, or as much as $7500 per year, per Class 8 truck, the companies claim.

“Our customers count on us to deliver the highest quality exhaust products while also helping them manage their most pressing challenges for the Class 8 truck fleet operator, and that’s fuel efficiency,” Alex Borla, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Borla, said in a statement. “As we expand into new markets, it’s our vision to combine Borla’s state-of-the-art exhaust and filtration technologies with thermoelectrics”—thus, the partnership with Alphabet Energy for this development project.

“Borla’s passion for innovation and design parallels our own and we’re excited to partner with them on the future of heavy-duty trucking exhausts and fuel-efficiency improvements,” Scullin added. This new system “can help owners of trucks and other large vehicles meet ever-tightening efficiency and emissions standards and reduce fuel costs to deliver high return-on-investment.”

The PowerModules will undergo testing on both gasoline and diesel truck exhausts at Borla’s R&D centers in Oxnard, CA, and Johnson City, TN. Testing at the Oxnard facility began in late June, according to Scullin. “The initial tests, which were conducted on a Ford Econoline van, went well,” he noted. “Alphabet Energy is finalizing an upgraded, higher-power version of the PowerModule that is currently available for pre-order.”

Testing focuses on a variety of factors, Scullin explained, including how the PowerModules respond to shock and vibration and exposure to fluids, both internally (water, coolant, oil, etc.) and externally (salt water, mud, etc.). “So far, everything has gone as planned and the coupling of the Alphabet Energy PowerModules and Borla exhaust have withstood initial rounds of road testing through various driving conditions while delivering power.”

Based on continued positive results from the testing, the two companies intend to co-develop and commercialize the next-generation exhaust for trucks and other mobile and stationary ICEs with the TEG functionality.

Scullin noted that Alphabet Energy PowerModules are applicable for aftermarket or OEM systems and can be incorporated into the exhaust design for any passenger or commercial vehicle.

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