Exhaust heat recovery system

In transportation, an exhaust heat recovery system turns thermal losses in the exhaust pipe into energy. This technology seems to be more and more of interest by car and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers as an efficient way to save fuel and reduce vehicles’ CO2 emissions. This technology can be used either on a hybrid vehicle or a conventional one: it produces either electric energy for batteries or mechanical energy reintroduced on the crankshaft.

Thermal losses of an internal combustion engine

Even if current engines consume less fuel than they used to, the thermal efficiency of an internal combustion engine has not really increased since its creation. The peak efficiency reached by a 4-cycle Otto cycle engine is around 35%, which means that 65% of the energy contained in the fuel is lost as heat. High speed Diesel cycle engines fare better with around 45% peak efficiency, but are still far from their Carnot efficiency, and hence 55% of the fuel energy content is lost.

Electric Turbo Compound (ETC)

Electric Turbo Compounding (ETC) is a technology solution to the challenge of improving the fuel efficiency of gas and diesel engines by recovering waste energy from the exhaust gases.[1]

Exhaust heat recovery technologies

Chevrolet EGHR

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid car features an Exhaust gas Heat Recovery (EGHR) system to accelerate coolant heat up time. This gives faster heat up of the engine coolant which in turn heats up the engine faster. Less fuel is used giving reduced emissions. This will also quicken cabin heating warm up for passenger comfort and window defrosting. For hybrid applications it also can warm the battery pack. The cooling system is connected to a heat exchanger placed in the exhaust gas transferring the thermal energy from the exhaust gas to the cooling system. When the engine is warmed up the exhaust gas is diverted to a by-pass pipe.[2]


Rankine cycle systems vaporize pressurised water using a steam generator located in the exhaust pipe. As a result of the heating by exhaust gases, the fluid is turned into steam. The steam then drives the expander of the Rankine engine, either a turbine or pistons. This expander can be directly tied to the crankshaft of the thermal engine or linked to an alternator to generate electricity.

Researchers at Loughborough University and the University of Sussex, both in the UK, also have concluded that using waste heat from light-duty vehicle engines in a steam power cycle could deliver fuel economy advantages of between 6.3% and 31.7%, depending upon drive cycle, and that high efficiencies can be achieved at practical operating pressures.[3]

Thermoelectric generators (TEG)

Thermoelectric generators (Seebeck-, Peltier-, Thomson effects) are another option to recover heat from the exhaust pipe to reduce vehicles fuel consumption.[4]

Exhaust Heat Recovery on internal combustion engines with Rankine Cycle Systems

Passenger cars

Facing the new American, European, Japanese or Chinese regulation, more and more stringent concerning CO2 emissions, exhaust heat recovery sounds like one of the most efficient ways to recover a free energy, since heat is generated in many ways by the engine. Numerous companies develop system based upon a Rankine Cycle:


The German company has been one of the first major to study exhaust heat recovery with a Rankine system called Turbosteamer.[5]


Honda also develops a module based on a Rankine Cycle to improve overall efficiency of hybrid vehicles, by recovering the heat of the engine and turning it into electricity for the battery pack. In the US highway cycle, the Rankine cycle system regenerated three times as much energy as the vehicle's regenerative braking system.


A French company, Exoès is specialized in designing and manufacturing exhaust heat recovery systems based on Rankine Cycles. The system EVE, Energy Via Exhaust, leads to fuel savings from 5 up to 15%.[6]

Barber Nichols

Barber-Nichols Inc. develops Rankine technologies for vehicles.[7]


The German consortium unites the majority of internal combustion engine manufacturers across the world. Two task forces are currently studying exhaust heat recovery systems on passenger cars.


Renault Trucks: As a part of the All For Fuel Eco Initiative, Renault Trucks studies a Rankine system for long distance vehicles that could lead to 10% fuel savings.[8] The goal is to produce enough energy to feed the components and electronic auxiliaries with electricity and reduce the fuel consumption by reducing the load on the alternator.[9]

WildFire Heat Recovery System (WFHRS)

Double Arrow Engineerings' WildFire Heat Recovery System (WFHRS) is under development and utilizes wasted heat from both coolant and exhaust. This system mechanically adds power back to the drive-line, utilizing a Rankine engine as the energy conversion method. The WFHRS is designed for a variety of different applications, both fixed and variable RPM, aftermarket and OEM applications, but generally geared toward larger equipment such as large on-highway trucks, diesel generators, large buses and motor-homes, marine vessels, medium duty trucks, etc.[10]


IFPEN, Enogia and Alstom are developing a system called Trenergy dedicated to improve train fuel efficiency.[11]

Exhaust heat recovery in sport

Fuel efficiency, reduction of CO2 emissions, reliability and costs are necessary parts of Formula 1 manufacturers’ strategies. Automobile sport competitions is a good place to try and assess technologies that, once reliable, are adapted to private cars. As much as kinetic energy recovery system, Formula 1 constructors have produced one of the first exhaust heat recovery systems. Nowadays these devices are essential parts of embedded technologies on F1. Besides, heat recovery will be mandatory for the first time in 2014's F1 Championship. Manufacturers, like Renault (ERS-H),[12] test their systems, which also drives the turbo to improve its reactivity –and the torque at low regime- after braking.


  1. "Evaluation of an electric turbo compound system for SI engines: A numerical approach". doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2015.10.143. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. "2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery: Feature Spotlight" By Aaron Brzozowski, GM Authority, April 2, 2015
  3. "BMW Study on Rankine Cycle for Waste Heat Recovery Shows Potential Additional 10% Power Output at Highway Speeds". Green Car Congress. 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  4. Stuart Birch (2012-02-03). "Temperatures rise in BMW's work to recover engine waste heat". Sae.org. Archived from the original on 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  5. Tan, Paul. "BMW TurboSteamer". Paultan.org. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  6. "EVE - Energy Via Exhaust - Exoès". Exoes.com. Archived from the original on 2017-04-29. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  7. "Organic Rankine Cycles". Barber Nichols. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  8. "Renault Trucks Corporate : Press releases". Corporate.renault-trucks.com. 2011-02-09. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  9. "Welcome on the Michelin Challenge Bibendum website". Michelinchallengebibendum.com. 2012-12-06. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  10. "WFHRS". doublearroweng.com. Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  11. "Harnessing the Rankine cycle to recover exhaust gas heat and boost train energy efficiency". Ifpenergiesnouvelles.com. 2013-03-19. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  12. "Renault takes lid off of 2014 F1 turbo engine". F1technical.net. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
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