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GM converts exhaust to energy [VIDEO]

Engineers at the automaker’s Pontiac Engineering Centre are turning exhaust fumes from engine tests into energy to power the facility’s lighting and air conditioning


February 3, 2012
by CanadianManufacturing.com Staff

PONTIAC, Mich.—Engineers at a General Motors’ (GM) engineering centre are using excess energy from engine testing to power parts of the facility.

Since the Pontiac Engineering Centre began the energy efficiency project after a 2008 renovation, the facility has regenerated more than 26.7 million kilowatt hours of energy to power internal processes—the equivalent of the electricity consumed by 2,326 U.S. households in one year.

“Pontiac was a brownfield project, which meant parts of it were in existence already, but other wings of the facility had to be built from the ground up,” said Dave Gunnels, engineering manager for Pontiac test facilities. “The benefit of building from scratch was that we were able to bake in energy efficiency aspects directly into the system, rather than trying to retrofit.”

The energy generated from engine testing powers air conditioning and lighting in the laboratory area. Besides lowering the overall energy output, GM designers downsized the transformers and network architecture—similar to a motherboard in a computer—because not as much original energy would be needed.

The facility also cleans the remaining engine exhaust before releasing it into the atmosphere. A common ductwork system collects engine exhaust and helps it travel through thermal oxidizers outside the plant before being released into the air.

The “destruction efficiency” is 96 per cent, meaning all but 4 per cent of hydrocarbons and other constituents are removed before release.

Pontiac has four thermal oxidizers at its disposal, used only on an as-needed basis.

“If we’re running fewer test engines within the facility, we might only have one or two units operating,” Gunnels said. “We don’t want to consume more energy than we need to.”

Check out the video below to see how the technology works.