TOTEM History

TOTEM: Total Energy Module.

During the energy crisis of the 1970's, the Fiat Centre of Research began a groundbreaking project to utilise a Fiat internal combustion engine to produce electricity, while recovering heat from the exhaust. This led to the development of the world's first microcogenerator, or small combined heat and power unit. The concept was not new, but cogeneration projects at the time were adapted generators using standard available market components, resulting in poorly engineered solutions with noise and reliability problems.

Fiat released the Totem, a 15 kW electrical, 39 kW thermal microcogenerator, in 1978 using a 903cc engine and produced it in-house until the early 1980's. The Totem was a highly reliable, well-engineered unit that is known to have lasted over 20 years with good maintenance. However, by the time it was in production, energy costs were falling and carbon emissions had not yet become a worldwide concern. As the energy crisis ended and the economy changed, Fiat's sole focus returned to automobiles. The production rights of the Totem were sold off and it was manufactured 'under licence of Fiat' until 2003 with only minor changes and upgrades throughout that period.

In 2003, the Totem design was updated and rebranded the Tandem; Thermal and Electrical Machine. It was designed with a 1.2L Fiat engine that was purpose built for natural gas, instead of an aftermarket conversion from petrol. It had a higher efficiency level, higher set point temperature and lower noise emissions than the original Totem, as well as having a more sensible footprint. The Tandem was built up until the end of 2014, whereupon the latest generation of TOTEM went into production as a vastly superior cogeneration unit compared with anything that has ever been produced before.

TOTEM ENERGY: From Tandem to Totem

The design and manufacturing rights of Tandem were purchased in 2013 and the new generation of CHP project began under the banner Totem-Energy. The goal was to produce the best cogeneration range possible. The first step was to rebuild the relationship with FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. This was crucially important because the engine and how it runs is the key to a good product. This re-kindled relationship immediately made a huge impact in a number of ways; it reintroduced the technology back to where it began, and opened the door for the new unit to be branded TOTEM and to draw on the history of the technology. It also brought automotive and engine expertise that cannot be found anywhere else: Fiat are leaders in compressed natural gas engine design. At the end of 2014, they had produced over 600,000 natural gas powered cars, as well as 22,000 industrial engines (3 litres and bigger). The new TOTEM was fitted out with the new 1.4L Fiat Fire engine, which has a reliability rate of 99.6% over 100,000 units per year.

To control the engine, Fiat partner Magneti Marelli was invited to provide the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and catalytic converter in order to fine-tune the parameters to suit the stationary, natural gas engine. These relationships have meant that the TOTEM has very high efficiencies, as well as ultra low NOX and CO emission rates - less than 10% of most microcogeneration units on the market.
This has been the result from the added value of developing the TOTEM with the automotive manufacturers and their partners who have significant R&D departments, demanding regulations, and a desire for efficiency and close control. The new TOTEM uses parts that are manufactured, tested, and quality controlled in their many thousands, as opposed to off-the-shelf CHP parts that are produced in much smaller batches.

The pride taken in the design has ensured that the finished product is at its absolute best. Components such as condensing heat exchangers, condensate traps, and noise attenuators that have traditionally been installed outside of the unit, have been neatly contained inside the box in a compact manner. The casing has been specially designed to limit noise emissions to a very low level. All parts within the casing are fixed to the baseplate, allowing all of the panels, the lid and the uprights to be removed to assist servicing and maintenance.

The newest generation of TOTEM builds on the history and experiences of the past, and incorporates the latest engineering practices in the automotive industry. This ensures that the TOTEM is the best cogeneration unit available on the market.

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