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  • New Tech: Webasto Liquid Heat Generator

New Tech: Webasto Liquid Heat Generator

March 5, 2008

Frank Markus
Mar 5, 2008
Photo 2/4   |   wecbasto Liquid Generator lhg Water Flow Diagram
An unintended consequence of improving vehicle and powertrain efficiency is that some vehicles don't produce enough heat to warm the cabin or defrost the windshield in a timely manner. It's a big enough "problem" that owners ranked "heaters not getting warm enough/fast enough" their seventh highest complaint on J.D. Power's Quality and Satisfaction survey. The problem afflicts hybrids and some very small boosted gasoline engines, but it's probably worst with modern diesel engines. Many manufacturers therefore employ electric booster heaters on their diesel vehicles.
Photo 3/4   |   wecbasto Liquid Generator webasto Lhg Exploded View
Perhaps there's a better way. The Webasto Liquid Heat Generator (LHG) employs a simple engine-driven gizmo about the size of a big alternator to heat the coolant mechanically. It churns the coolant violently in much the same way as a water-brake dynamometer creates resistance when testing a hot rod. An impeller turns inside a toroid (imagine an oversized donut mold) creating shear and friction that heats the coolant, which is routed directly to the heater core and then back into the engine.
Photo 4/4   |   wecbasto Liquid Generator webasto Lhg
The device can be sized from 5-15 kW (7-20 hp or 4.7-14 BTU/sec), and it converts 90 percent of the energy drawn from the engine into heat. It's expected that the additional load on the engine will reduce the time required for catalyst lightoff. This may be true of electrically powered heat-boosters, too, but at least here the heat also helps warm up the engine as well. It saves fuel by not requiring folks to prestart or idle as long as would be necessary to defrost the car, and of course driving with clear windows is safer than driving with iced or frosted ones.
Webasto claims that defrosting begins in half the time required in an unboosted system and is often completed by about the time meaningful clearing begins in vehicles without LHG. Two North American manufacturers are reportedly working to integrate LHG in 2010 models.

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