After Going Dark, GMZ Energy Plots a Comeback on Waste Heat

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is to generate about 200 watts from the car’s exhaust system to offset the power generated by the alternator at a cost of about $1 per watt, says Diuguid.

The auto industry needs new technologies to meet fuel efficiency mandates, but it tends to move slowly—the best-case scenario for GMZ Energy is to get its modules tested in cars by 2018 or 2019. But the company has joint development agreements with companies in other industries that could lead to commercial sales in late 2015 or early 2016, Diuguid says.

“We are out of the lab,” she says. “We’re not doing some funky little bench-top lab test. We’re putting our products in simulations of actual products or the actual product itself.”

To get closer to commercialization, GMZ Energy will need to raise additional funds from “strategic” investors, which could use their technology, as well as venture capitalists, says Diuguid. Current investors include Japan-based Mitsui Ventures, I2BF Global Ventures, BP Alternative Energy, and a joint venture of General Electric, NRG Energy, and ConocoPhillips. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was a seed investor.

In theory, there’s lots of potential in thermoelectric devices since they have no moving parts and turn a waste product—heat—into something valuable. In cars, for instance, it’s estimated that more than half of their energy in their fuel is lost to heat. But no company has been able to turn that promise into a commercial product with wide appeal (thermolectrics are already used in some niche applications, such as portable coolers.)

For GMZ Energy, which has survived despite at least one major miscalculation, the question is whether it can demonstrate what no one else has: a thermoelectric product that generates not just a flow of electricity, but rapid revenue growth as well.

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