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Thermoelectric Technologies Used in the Automotive Industry

This entry was posted in thermoelectric cooling , thermoelectric technology , industries and automotive on January 17, 2019 by II-VI Marlow Industries

We’ve talked before about how thermoelectric technologies are present in the medical, aerospace, and defense industries as a reliable and efficient energy source. There are some amazing things that can be accomplished in these industries with the help of our technology, but there are more common applications as well. So much so, that these devices can be applied to something that most of us use every single day - cars.

Climate Control

One feature that has become fairly traditional in cars is temperature controlled seats. Having the ability to heat your seat quickly to adjust to the temperature outside is extremely convenient. Gone are the days of getting into a cold car with a seat that just makes you feel colder, or sitting in a hot car with sweat dripping down your back.

A newer application is cup holder heating/cooling. You probably didn’t think you’d ever need a temperature controlled cup holder, but then again why not? You might as well keep your beverages at a steady temperature. So how do these things work?

How it Works

For heated and cooled seats, the individual controls the temperature through a switch that then prompts and directs airflow through a thermoelectric heat pump. This pump is what facilitates the change in temperature of the air. A fan then circulates that air through a ducting system that is integrated into the seat back and cushion. This is how you get heated and cooled seats.

This seat application has the potential to reduce our national energy bill by enabling smaller compressors to be used for cooling the main cabin. Cup holders and compartments are temperature controlled the same way as seats and have the potential for a condensation management system to prevent frost and freezing.

Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Battery Cooling

For those who own or are considering owning a new hybrid or electric vehicle, II-VI Marlow is developing thermoelectric modules that stabilize the temperature of your car’s battery-operated system. These systems become costly to maintain when they reach a temperature outside the realm of their operating range. Our modules will ensure the maximum performance of these vehicles in any type of environment by extending battery life, increasing efficiency, and capacity in low temperatures.

Exhaust Waste Heat Recovery

If you’ve ever stood by a car’s exhaust pipe, you know that cars emit a lot of heat and energy. You really know the amount of heat cars produce if you’ve ever touched a hot exhaust pipe (but hopefully you haven’t), but did you know what a typical car only converts one-quarter of its fuel energy into useful power? The rest of the energy is what you feel through the exhaust and radiator.

It is safe to say a typical automobile is not the most efficient use of fuel and energy, so we have engineered a prototype thermoelectric waste heat recovery subsystem to fix this problem.

How it Works

Using thermoelectric generators (TEGs), the excess heat from the exhaust and radiator of the car is converted into electrical power. TEGs utilize something called the Seebeck Effect, where dissimilar metals with a variation in temperature create an electrical current. In other words, TEGs take wasted thermal energy and converts it into a sustainable electrical energy source with no waste. II-VI Marlow thermoelectric generators take something that is harmful for the environment and turn it into something efficient and without waste, reducing pollution and improving automotive energy efficiency.

HVAC Temperature Control

A typical HVAC system in a vehicle derives power from the same battery that powers the movement of the car. This sharing of power reduces the efficiency of the car battery, thus shortening the driving range. With our technologies, the car’s heater system can produce heat at a better coefficient of performance, allowing for better driving range, especially in more extreme environments.

How it Works

Utilizing compact thermoelectric solutions to drive heating and cooling systems allows for Zonal Thermoelectric Air Conditioner/Heater implementation. This technology is possible in a battery- or alternator-powered vehicle. The Zonal system uses thermoelectric devices as units to heat or cool only the space occupied, targeting the dashboard, headliner, seat backs and other areas specific to a vehicle occupant. By eliminating a large compressor-based unit to supply heat/air-conditioning for the entire vehicle, the thermoelectric method specifically directs the heat and cooling flow, thereby increasing vehicle energy efficiency.


II-VI Marlow automotive technology is approved by Tier 1 suppliers and qualified to automotive standards, ensuring the most reliable and efficient devices on the market.

If you have any questions or challenges regarding automotive thermoelectric technologies, contact our experts via the link below!

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