Auto Industry on the Verge of Revolution in Electronics
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- The auto industry is on the verge of a revolution in vehicle electronics that will make cars and trucks run far more efficiently and enhance engine performance, Ford's research chief said Thursday.
The revolution will permit the broader use of vehicles with "hybrid" power systems, which combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor.
"Just as microcomputers proved to be the key in crossing the last hurdles, electronics is emerging as the automotive Grail of the next two decades," Bill Powers, Ford vice president of research, told an industry conference.
Technology is evolving to the point that within five to 10 years, many mechanical engine controls and parts will be replaced with electronics, and some accessories that now operate on engine power will run independently, Powers said. A necessary change is upgrading the automotive electrical system from the 12-volt standard used since the 1950s to a 42-volt system, Powers said. That will allow what's called a "belt-less engine," in which major accessories now powered via belts connected to the engine would be run instead by the supplemental electric motor and batteries.
The benefits for consumers will be improved fuel economy, a quieter, smoother-running vehicle, and better performance because fewer accessories will be drawing power from the engine. …