A peek inside: An artist’s rendering of a Chevrolet Suburban shows the muffler-like thermoelectric generator inserted into the exhaust system.
Another key challenge will be integrating the device into vehicles. The researchers have already tested a bismuth telluride generator in an SUV. “Right now, the device is just inserted into the exhaust system,” Meisner says. “A section of pipe is cut out and the device, which looks like a muffler, is inserted. We need to design something that’s more integrated into the vehicle system rather than an add-on device.”
Both BSST and GM researchers also need to find ways to make larger volumes of the new materials cheaply. Meisner cautions that it might be at least another four years before thermoelectric generators make it into production vehicles.