Cardiff University Professor Mike Rowe and colleagues are researching thermoelectric generation -- employing thermocouples to convert heat into electricity. The scientists said such conversion technology is used in controlling central heating systems or refrigerator temperatures and might be able to generate electricity from the waste heat in vehicles.
"The main interest in cars is to decrease (fuel) consumption and reduce CO2 emissions," said Rowe. "If you can utilize the exhaust heat, you could replace the alternator. This would provide a 5 percent saving in fuel straightaway."
Although U.S. auto makers have expressed interest in such technology, Rowe said interest has been lacking in the United Kingdom.
"Thermoelectric generation is a green solution," he added. "It can in many instances cost less than solar energy. It has huge future potential, yet it has been neglected to date in the United Kingdom."