Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

The Electronic Car

Transportation

Advanced automotive electronics used to mean digital dashboard displays or electronic fuel injection. But carmakers are now moving toward a full electronic embrace of basic systems ranging from valve timing to steering. To provide the needed juice, they are adopting a new 42-volt electrical system, replacing the 14-volt standard that has reigned since 1955.

Ford Motor was first to make a public commitment with its January announcement that the Explorer sport utility vehicle will include a 42-volt system in 2004, initially enabling a new combined starter/alternator. The engine would shut off at every red light; a tap on the gas would fire the starter/alternator, moving the Explorer forward while rapidly restarting the engine. Ford predicts dramatic fuel economy gains.

Ford isn’t alone in trying to revamp the internal combustion engine with electromechanical components. Also hard at work are General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Toyota and Renault. “Virtually all of the important manufacturers and suppliers have signed on to 42-volt,” says David Perreault, an electrical engineer at MIT’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems. The lab leads an industry consortium developing the technology, which will require new electrical systems and batteries.

This story is part of our April 2001 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Mercedes-Benz (now part of DaimlerChrysler) helped launch MIT’s 42-volt initiative in 1995 and is one of several companies developing one of its toughest applications: electromechanical engine valves. Such systems would replace today’s mechanical systems and provide superefficient combustion control, including shutdown of individual cylinders while others continue operating, saving fuel. A Mercedes spokesman offered no predictions, but Perreault expects electronic valves to reach drivers within a decade.

Other possibilities include electronic steering, which would eliminate the power-robbing steering pump and allow a computer to intervene if a driver’s jerky maneuver threatened a rollover. More immediately, luxury cars need extra juice to power new electronic trimmings like onboard navigators.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.