In order to squeeze more mileage from every tank, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO, are working with Ford to improve the efficiency of automotive air conditioners. According to NREL, seven billion gallons of g asoline — almost 5.5% of the total US fuel consumption — are burned to run air conditioners in cars. In addition, leaky AC units spew an additional 50 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere annually.

John Rugh, a senior engineer at NREL, is leading the Vehicle Ancillary Load Reduction project in an effort to improve air conditioning efficiency by 33%. His group will begin by testing an alternative system that uses thermoelectrics to augment the power-hungry pumps and condensers of conventional air conditioners. The team is also looking at solar-reflective glass and paint which have the potential to cut air temperatures in cars by more than 30%. (Source: New York Times, June 15, 2009).

Contact: John Rugh, Senior Engineer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, (303) 275-4413, John.Rugh@nrel.gov, www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/ancillary_loads/, www.nrel.gov; Kimberly Harry, Corporate Communications, Ford, (313) 845-5167, kharry1@ford.com, www.ford.com.