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There are no quick fixes to long-term energy challenges. To find solutions, governments and industry benefit from sharing resources and accelerating results. For this reason the IEA enables independent groups of experts - the Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs1.

Advanced Transport Materials

Results of round-robin testing of materials in seven laboratories show a variance of between 4% and 9%.

Round robin testing produces results

Policy context
Substituting steel in transport vehicles with lighter alternatives has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by 10%. Together with improvements in energy and component efficiencies, a 50% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of new vehicles is achievable by 2030. Policies and measures that benefit both the consumer and industry and that are in place over the long-term are important elements of successful transport efficiency strategies.

The goals of the ETI focusing on materials for transport (AMT) are to reduce weight to improve fuel efficiency without compromising safety, durability, and comfort; surface engineering including texturing coupled with advanced thin films and lubricant chemistry to reduce friction and improve durability; coating systems to manage heating and cooling, wear and greenhouse gas emission; and nano‑materials to reduce weight and improve performance. There are eight Contracting Parties, including China and Israel.

Much automotive industry research in recent years has focused on developing thermoelectric (TE) materials able to convert heat into electricity (or reversing the process to cool down). Application of TE materials in vehicles includes cabin air conditioning, electricity generation from exhaust heat, and battery thermal management.

The temperature benchmark achievable from TE materials averages between 1 and 1.5. Finding materials with a benchmark greater than 1.5 could significantly increase the efficiency and cost-competitiveness of materials. However, precise characterisation of materials is needed.

For this reason, the AMT project, Development of Thermoelectric Materials for Waste Heat Recovery in Transportation Industries, aims to develop standard testing methods and procedures for TE materials and to characterise key TE properties for transportation applications.

Two international round-robin tests of TE properties were carried out in seven national and private sector laboratories. Each lab was provided with two sets of specimens and asked to measure and record the thermal diffusivity, specific heat, density, the Seebeck coefficient1, and electrical resistivity.

Not surprisingly, as illustrated in the chart above, the laboratory results showed variances of between 4% and 9%. The significance of these results underlines the need for more rigorous measurement methods in order to correctly measure benchmarks and to advance TE materials discovery and development.

As a result, the AMT study outlined procedures to eliminate operator and systems errors, and developed standard procedures for future testing. Other applications for TE materials include photovoltaics, fuel cells and remote power generation in space stations and satellites. 

1. The conversion of temperature differences directly into electricity.

Current projects

  • Advanced coatings to improve engine durability and efficiency
  • Integrated surface technology to reduce friction in engines
  • Low-cost carbon fibre measurement standards assessment
  • Magnesium alloy corrosion protection and durability for light-weighting of vehicles
  • Nano-materials testing and characterization for quality control
  • Thermoelectric materials characterisation measurement improvement and standard development

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1.Information or material of the IEA Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs (formally organised under the auspices of an Implementing Agreement), including information or material published on this website, does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of the IEA’s individual Member countries. The IEA does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) in respect of such information (including as to its completeness, accuracy or non-infringement) and shall not be held liable for any use of, or reliance on, such information.