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BioLite is an interesting company that sits at the intersection of electricity and outdoor cooking. It might sound like the two have nothing to do with each other, but both have become essential in the world today. So, whether it’s an electric fire pit / grill for a more efficient burn or a portable power station that can be used as a tailgate generator, both necessities interact. One innovation where they’re really connected is the CampStove 2+ (click for our review), which has a thermoelectric generator (TEG) to actually create electricity from your fire.
While the science behind the CampStove 2+ is amazing in its own right, BioLite’s patent on the technology suggests other uses. One use that’s particularly interesting is combining the TEG with a charcoal kettle grill to generate electricity. To understand how a charcoal kettle can generate electricity, lets start with how the CampStove 2+ does it.
How Does the BioLite CampStove 2+ Work?
This video from BioLite does a great job giving a high level explanation of how the CampStove 2+ works.
For a detailed dive, start by reading more about the Seebeck Effect. That’s the foundation of how a TEG works.
How Can a Charcoal Grill Generate Electricity?
The above drawing is from BioLite’s patent. You can see that the idea is similar to their CampStove. You mount the TEG (number 910) on the side of the grill with a bracket, then the heat conducting probe for power generation is extended and shaped over a mount of charcoal (number 930). A vented outlet pipe extends beneath the coals (number 942) to deliver more airflow.
In their patent they suggest other design ideas to make it easier to retrofit the TEG on existing charcoal kettles. They also introduce using multiple TEGs on a grill or adapting the design to other fire pits and grills.
Before you go cutting holes in your Weber and installing the CampStove TEG, these are just ideas in the patent and haven’t necessarily been tested. It is tempting though!
Why Would You Want a Grill to Generate Electricity?
BioLite is a very mission focused company that already has larger versions of the CampStove. The BioLite HomeStove was created to help solve the problem of energy poverty. Over half the planet lives without safe and reliable ways to cook, charge and light their lives, which leads to many premature deaths. From BioLite’s website, they reinvest revenue from their outdoor markets to build a commercially sustainable business that can bring safe, affordable energy to families living in energy poverty across India and Africa.
For BBQ hobbyists there are also practical reasons for generating electricity from a grill. With grills like the Masterbuilt Gravity Series or their Portable Charcoal Grill, there is a controller and a fan to dial in a specific temperature. This is currently done through electricity from an outlet or batteries. A self sustained system would eliminate the need for a power source. On a smaller scale, the ability to plug in a grill light or other accessories into your kettle grill would add to its versatility.
We don’t know if we’ll ever see a TEG on a charcoal grill, but it’s a very innovative idea. Jeremy Andrus, CEO of Traeger had the following to say about Weber in an interview with The Verge.
Let me just be really clear and say that when Weber launches something new, it has a new knob or a new color. No disrespect.Jeremy Andrus, Traeger CEO
Maybe this is the largest grill company’s opportunity to innovate their 70 year old kettle grill.