Four years ago, the Federal government gave several million dollars to a program designed to convert automotive exhaust heat into electricity. Often, such efforts -- and the money -- fade into obscurity without useful results. Not this time. Amerigon Incorporated and its BSST subsidiary will shortly put a prototype vehicle on the road. In essence, the device wraps around the exhaust pipe and converts energy from one form (heat) to another (electricity).The system reduces the amount of electricity an engine needs to make to run the air conditioner, radio, headlights and more. This will translate directly into fuel mileage improvement of about five or more percent. Others involved in the program include BMW
, Visteon, Teledyne, Purdue and Cal Tech. "Our goal is to develop an efficient and practical thermoelectric system that will improve fuel economy by converting waste exhaust heat into electrical power," said Dan Coker, CEO of Amerigon.