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Amerigon Awarded DOE Grant to Develop Thermoelectric-Based Energy Recovery System to Improve Passenger Car Fuel Efficiency

August 18, 2011 by Jeff Shepard

Amerigon Inc. announced that it has been awarded an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to lead the development of an energy recovery system that can improve passenger car fuel efficiency by 5% by converting waste heat from gas exhaust into electric power using a thermoelectric generator.

The grant is part of $175 million in DOE awards for 40 projects to accelerate advanced vehicle research and development. Amerigon will share the $8 million grant with its project partners including Ford, BMW of North America, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)/California Institute of Technology, and Faurecia Emissions Controls Technologies.

The project, to be completed in four years, will also specify how the new energy recovery system can be successfully commercialized "on the scale needed to positively impact the reduction of greenhouse gasses," according to the DOE grant.

Amerigon states that it is the world’s largest supplier of thermoelectric technologies in the global automotive market and a leader in the conversion of waste heat into electric power in automobiles. Amerigon began working on DOE-funded thermoelectric projects in 2005 by leading a multi-phase project to develop and evaluate a system for waste heat recovery in BMW and Ford vehicles. This new DOE-funded project builds upon the success of that program which is nearing completion.

President and Chief Executive Officer Daniel R. Coker said that creating passenger car fuel efficiency has always been among Amerigon’s goals in its far-reaching development of thermoelectric technology. Amerigon is best known for its Climate Control Seat® System that uses thermoelectric technology to actively heat and cool seats in vehicles made by the world’s leading automotive manufacturers.

"We believe our thermoelectric technology will demonstrate important advances in energy efficiency in passenger cars, which will also cut down on the emissions of harmful environmental pollutants such as carbon dioxide gas," Coker added. "Over the last several years, we have worked very closely with the Department of Energy and our other partners in the development of a fully functional thermoelectric generator. We believe we can build on our recent technical achievement of delivering to BMW and Ford working prototypes of the generator that are currently producing a significant amount of electricity. With this new round of DOE funding, Amerigon and our partners will begin to address the manufacturability and commercialization of this potentially breakthrough technology."