SEMA Market Snapshot, June 15, 2005

CATEGORY: INDUSTRY

- Fuel-Cell Vehicles To Hit Showrooms Soon?
- $10-Per-Gallon Gas To Break Even With Cost of Some Hybrids
- Electronics To Become 40% of a Vehicle's Cost: Any Benefits?
- Automotive Waterborne Paint Technology “More User-Friendly”
- Spinner Wheels and Hubcaps Face Ban in Several States
- Vehicle Modifications: New Car Vs. Truck Buyers

CATEGORY: VEHICLE PRODUCTION AND SALES

- Buyers Turning to Asian Trucks
- Scion xB Sales Up 32%

CATEGORY: ECONOMIC NEWS

- Increased Consumer Spending Signals Optimism About Small-Business Growth
- Economy at a Glance: Fuel Vs. Auto Sales and Current Market Summary
- Low Rate of Job Creation Heightens Concern for Economy

CATEGORY: TECHNOLOGY NEWS

- Prototype Engine Varies Compression Ratio While Running
- New Ceramic Brake Pads Reduce Noise and Dust for Tuners
- Diesel “Bionic Car” Achieves Up to 84 MPG
- World's Highest Fuel-Injection Pressure for Diesel: More Power!
- Steer-By-Wire Forecasted in Half the World’s Cars
- Plastic Door Module Reduces Weight and Noise
- Vehicles Talking to Each Other?


*********************************************************************************

FUEL-CELL VEHICLES TO HIT SHOWROOMS SOON?

Fuel cells turn hydrogen into electricity in an electrochemical reaction. The electricity is used to move a vehicle and, since no fuel is burned in an engine, the only emission is water vapor.  There are significant infrastructure investments that need to be made to make fuel cells a reality. According to WinterGreen Research Inc., a strategic marketing research firm, the cost of new infrastructure for fuel-cell refueling will increase from $2 billion per year initially to $21 billion per year by 2010. This cost will likely be borne by governments as well as private industry. Market growth depends on $5 billion infrastructure investment in local hydrogen manufacturers for fuel cells. Total vehicle fuel-cell markets for autos will be $772.7 million in 2007 and will grow to $98 billion by 2013.

One example of a current development in fuel-cell technology is Hyundai's second-generation Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, the Tucson FCEV, touting a driving range double that of the first-generation offering along with increased speed and power, and it is one of the first fuel-cell vehicles with the capability to start under freezing temperatures. Hyundai will begin fleet testing its vehicles within the year to further develop and demonstrate the convenience and reliability of hydrogen-powered vehicles and the hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

The excitement lies in the fact that today's emissions technology and engine management systems have come so far that manufacturers again have the freedom to offer some of the most exhilarating powertrains to be seen in decades. Hyundai's advancements give optimism that when these technologies cross paths, the same excitement and performance will be present in the next generation of cars that consumers will drive.

Recently, Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that he would advocate California to invest $54 million to build 100 hydrogen fueling stations within the next five years.  According to a Mercury News article published in late May, a report calling “hydrogen-powered cars a way to reduce smog, slow global warming and wean the nation from oil” was unveiled by California’s Governor.  According to the report, the money will provide matching funds to industry to build hydrogen fueling stations in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Los Angeles. There are already 39 stations being built or in the planning stage, which means that 61 new stations will need to be built by 2010 at a cost of $1 million each. The plan also calls for funding for state grants to automakers for $10,000 per vehicle. Currently there are only 90 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on California roads, but the Governor’s plan calls for 2000 fuel-cell vehicles by 2010. This plan will place California ahead of 13 other states that are pursuing hydrogen fuel-cell initiatives.

California’s plan is a first step toward the realization of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles becoming available to consumers. If the infrastructure is in place, it is likely that automakers will start producing more hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

GM, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai (mentioned earlier) and other automakers already have hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles leased out to government fleets or universities, which are currently on the roads today.  Honda, for example, has its four-seat FCX, which is being leased to 14 U.S. cities at a cost of $1 million each to build. The FCX stores 8.3 pounds of hydrogen in two 5000-p.s.i. aluminum tanks and has a range of 170 miles and top speed of 93 mph. Honda said that its hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles could be available to consumers in eight to 15 years, depending on whether the infrastructure is in place. There are currently no hydrogen vehicles available to consumers. 

 

The National Academy of Scientists concluded last year that the first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles would not hit showrooms until 2015. Besides a lack of infrastructure, there are many obstacles that need to be overcome before hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles become available to consumers. Current hydrogen vehicles have a range of only 150 miles whereas a typical gasoline-powered vehicles can travel up to 450 miles before fill-ups. Also, producing hydrogen gas can produce more pollution and greenhouse gases than using conventional fuels, unless the energy to produce the hydrogen comes from renewable sources.


Source: Mercury News Article by Paul Rogers/SEMA Research and Information Center

$10-PER-GALLON GAS TO BREAK EVEN WITH COST OF SOME HYBRIDS

Consumers seeking shelter from high gas prices might not find the relief they expect by turning to hybrids, announced Edmunds.com, an online resource for automotive information. Consumers who own a hybrid car or SUV may purchase less gas and have lower maintenance expenses than if they owned the non-hybrid counterpart, and may qualify for a federal tax credit designated for hybrid vehicle owners. However, most hybrids' high sales prices, insurance costs and related expenses will offset the savings. Edmunds.com found that during the first five years of ownership, a hybrid can cost as much as $5,283 more than its non-hybrid counterpart.

Model Edmunds.com True Market Value® price plus ownership costs* Additional cost to own hybrid
Ford Escape Hybrid
$50,521
 
Ford Escape XLT AWD
$47,092
$3,429
 
 
 
Honda Accord Hybrid
$49,972
 
Honda Accord EX V-6
$46,156
$3,816
 
 
 
Honda Civic Hybrid
$36,666
 
Honda Civic LX
$32,993
$3,672
 
 
 
Toyota Prius
$37,893
 
Toyota Corolla LE
$32,610
$5,283
 
 
 
Toyota Prius
$37,893
 
Toyota Camry LE
$37,974
($81)
Source: Edmunds.com

Only when the analysts compared the Toyota Prius to the Toyota Camry LE did the hybrid ownership experience prove financially advantageous—but barely. Over the first five years of ownership, the Camry is expected to cost just $81 more than the Prius.

However, when comparing the costs of the other vehicles, Edmunds.com analysts determined that gas would have to cost at least $5.60 per gallon for hybrid drivers to break even if they drove 15,000 miles per year over the five years. Alternately, they could break even if they drove at least 37,000 miles per year at the current average gas price of $2.28 per gallon.
Below are the break-even points for hybrid ownership for each vehicle in the study.

Model
Fuel Would Have to Cost …
Or a Driver Would Have to Exceed Annual Mileage of …
1
Ford Escape Hybrid
(vs. Ford Escape XLT AWD)
$5.60
37,000
2
Honda Accord Hybrid
(vs. Honda Accord EX V-6)
$9.20
60,000
3
Honda Civic Hybrid
(vs. Honda Civic LX)
$9.60
63,000
4
Toyota Prius
(vs. Toyota Corolla)
$10.10
66,500
5
Toyota Prius
(vs. Toyota Camry)
$2.28
15,000
Source: Edmunds.com

Edmunds.com analysts predict this cost differential is likely to decrease as the technology matures and hybrids become more mainstream. Currently, hybrids make up less than 1% of market share. Accordingly, manufacturers have not yet been able to achieve economies of scale and are passing the higher costs along to their buyers. Since current customer demand greatly exceeds supply, the vehicles are easily able to carry the premium transaction price. At some point in the near future, these dynamics are expected to change.

*How Edmunds.com Analysts Determined the Costs

The Edmunds.com True Market Value® is the average purchase price as described at http://www.edmunds.com/products/tmv/about_new.html. The ownership costs used in the above estimations include interest on financing, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel, maintenance and repairs. Fuel was estimated to cost $2.28 per gallon for the first year with a 3% increase for each subsequent year. It was also assumed that the vehicles are traditionally financed over 60 months with a 10% down payment by a buyer with a good credit rating who drives 15,000 miles per year. The buyer is assumed to be in the average demographic for insurance rates and qualifies for the hybrid vehicle federal tax credit.

Source: Edmunds.com

ELECTRONICS TO BECOME 40% OF A VEHICLE'S COST: ANY BENEFITS?

The electrical and electronic content of cars continues its upward trajectory. Already estimated at a quarter of the content value of vehicles, it is felt that by 2010 some 40% of a vehicle's cost base will be accounted for by its electrical power and control systems.

So far as body engineering is concerned, this increase is being driven by a number of different dynamics, which can be broadly split into the two sectors of ecology and safety. The former is geared to providing the optimum fuel efficiency from an engine, allied to the sometimes-incompatible need to minimize harmful or undesirable compound gas emissions. The latter is a broader-still spectrum, which encompasses such elements as suspension and braking stability, speed-distance control systems and advanced steering systems.

At the same time that electrical and electronic content is being increased, there is a symbiotic demand from automakers to reduce the curb weight of vehicles, and one way that this is being achieved is by increasing the amount of electrical/electronic control in place of mechanical connections. Replacing the traditional mechanical-hydraulic power steering pump with an electronically controlled, electrically actuated power assistance unit reduces engine load, but more significantly reduces not just vehicle sprung weight but also reduces complexity of installation on the production line.

Benefits of increased electronic control

While there is much to be said for the weight that can be shed and efficiency which can be increased from the adoption of electronics, there must at the same time be an economic advantage to the carmaker, which acts to at least compensate for the additional costs involved. This can be achieved in part by the improved packaging of sub-assemblies by external suppliers—which makes for easier stock control and increased ease of installation—and also by allowing reductions in lead time accorded to designers and engineers.

A further benefit of moving to increased electronic control of functions and systems is that it allows automakers to increase the degree of outsourcing involved in each sub-assembly, which can again reduce the in-house element of new program-development costs. It has been unofficially estimated that each hour saved in the period from Job One to on sale dates can be broadly equated to one dollar off the showroom sticker price of a mid-range new-car model.

Finally, increased electronic control allows model specification differentiations to be made quickly and easily; by simply adjusting the control software. The level of functionality in any given system can be adjusted to suit the range position and price point of specific models, providing the bare minimum in entry-level vehicles and full functionality in high-series cars.

Source: Research and Markets

AUTOMOTIVE WATERBORNE PAINT TECHNOLOGY "MORE USER-FRIENDLY"

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is targeting hazardous air pollutant (HAP)—HAP includes toluene, xylene, glycol ethers, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, ethylbenzene and methanol culprits—under the Clean Air Act. Stricter air quality standards have pushed European and U.S. automakers to switch to waterborne paints. Waterborne paint eliminates all solvents which are the smog-forming culprits. Application systems cost between $107,000 and $150,000, which is in line with older solvent-based technology. One positive feature to switching over to waterborne paints is that the same spray guns used in solvent-based paints can still be used—changing the tips is the only upgrade necessary. Some say that waterborne actually delivers a more complete paint job that is more pure and less cloudy.
 
Adaptation of waterborne paints by U.S. body shop owners thus far has been slow, although the technology has been available in the United States for more than a decade. The main problem for the waterborne process is longer drying times even with added airflow and heat lamps in special booths. Improved paints and systems will offer reduced cost for body shops, better job quality and environmental and painter health benefits. Also, the collision-repair industry will benefit by adopting waterborne paint technology, as it provides a means to meet strict environmental regulations.

According to Dale Bright at Dale Bright’s Auto Service in Chino, California: “If you’re going to stay in this business you have to go with the flow and change with the technology.”  Also, Michael Anderson, owner of two Wagonwork Collision Center shops in Alexandria, Virginia says, “Waterborne is a great product. It’s a lot more user-friendly.”

Source: www.automotivedigest.com 

SPINNER WHEELS AND HUBCAPS FACE BAN IN SEVERAL STATES

Bills in at least three states seek to ban "spinners," wheels/hubcaps that simulate movement even when a vehicle is stopped. Legislators say spinners can be disconcerting to other drivers and possibly play a role in causing accidents. A Bill pending in New York (S.B. 4740) seeks to prohibit use or sale of spinners—fining vehicle owners up to $750 for spinners and $150 for spinner hubcaps for each one sold. An Iowa bill would ban spinners and fine motorists $10 if their vehicle is equipped with spinners. However, a Virginia bill seeking to ban spinners died in committee.
 
Specialty wheels and tires now comprise a $3.2 billion industry, double from a decade ago and now 10% of the automotive aftermarket industry. Spinning wheels can cost several thousand dollars, while spinner hubcaps can cost less than $100.

Richard Riekeberg, manager of the Big O Tire store in Altoona, Iowa, says “Spinning wheel covers are most popular with customers in their 20s.” In January of this year he stated that his store sells about six sets a year, at a cost of $2,000 per set.

Regarding the pending New York ban, SEMA is urging members to contact Members of the New York Senate Transportation Committee to voice their opposition towards S.B. 4740 because:

Go to http://www.semasan.com/main/main.aspx?id=61913 for more information.

Source: www.automotivedigest.com, SEMA 

VEHICLE MODIFICATIONS: NEW CARS VS. TRUCK BUYERS

According to recent data from AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Study, new-car buyers tend to purchase better tires (32%) and wheels (31%) whereas new-truck buyers are purchasing spray-in bedliners (28%) and tow accessories (23%). The study is based on recent results from a survey mailed to new-vehicle buyers, and the total unweighted count of samples received is 32,042.  One-third of survey respondents indicated that they have and/or plan to modify their new vehicle.

Modifications Made by New Vehicle Buyers  
Modification Made
Total Industry
Total
Car
Total Truck
Engine/Performance Upgrades
16%
22%
14%
Suspension Upgrades
10%
12%
9%
Exhaust System Upgrades
18%
20%
18%
Ground Effects/Spoilers
10%
22%
6%
Tow Accessories (aux. brake control)
17%
2%
23%
Navigation System (added later)
5%
6%
5%
Pickup Drop-in Bedliner
12%
0%
16%
Pickup Spray-in Bedliner
21%
1%
28%
Docking for Hands-Free Phone
6%
7%
6%
Lighting (Additional/Auxillary/Upgrade)
11%
14%
11%
Better Tires
27%
32%
25%
Paint/Graphics
10%
14%
9%
Seat/Door Trim
6%
7%
6%
Different Wheels
22%
31%
19%
Satellite Radio
9%
12%
8%
Upgraded Seating
3%
4%
3%
Pickup Box Shell/Cap
14%
1%
18%
Rack System
6%
2%
7%
Audio System Upgrades
17%
28%
13%
TV/Video/Game System
14%
10%
15%
Grille
13%
6%
16%
Source: AutoPacific  

The age distribution for those that took the survey (total industry) is as follows: less than 30 = 10.3%, 30s = 16.3%, 40s = 21%, 50s = 23.2%, over 60 = 24.3%. Looking at the data above reveals some interesting findings. For example, notice that 22% of the car buyers purchase engine/performance upgrades while nearly half (14%) of the truck buyers modify the engine. 

Source: AutoPacific

BUYERS TURNING TO ASIAN TRUCKS

U.S. new-vehicle sales declined 8% in May, to 1.499 million units. GM sales were off 13% from a year ago to 386,688; this includes a 1.6% drop in car sales and 7.8% drop in truck sales. The automaker recently started offering employee discounts to the public in an effort to boost sales. GM sales analyst Paul Ballew says pricing will be more aggressive in June. Meanwhile, GM lost $1.3 billion in North America operations during the first quarter of 2005.
 
Ford’s sales were down 11% to 282,827, and they cut North America production by 2% for the third quarter in response to their sales decline. Ford cites "a little pause" as consumers move away from large SUVs. Ford is enthused by Mustang convertible sales, up 47% from last May, but they plan to shift more production into cars, rather than trucks this year.

The total annualized U.S. sales rate dipped to 16.67 million units from 17.7 million in May, 2004. BMW sales slid 3.1% in May, but Nissan rose by 15.8% (excludes Infiniti).  Nissan’s truck sales rose 14.7%. DaimlerChrysler was the only domestic automaker to actually experience a sales increase this year, but only by 2.5%. Honda, on the other hand, slumps 15% on Civic/Accord while experiencing a jump in truck sales of 14.3%. May sales were flat for Toyota, but their car sales rose 13.7%.

Source: Detroit News/www.automotivedigest.com

SCION XB SALES UP 32%

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) USA Inc. reported May sales of 201,493 vehicles, an increase of 7.8% over May 2004. It marks the third consecutive month and sixth time Toyota has recorded at least 200,000 sales in a single month. Calendar-year-to-date sales total 919,195 units, up 11.9% over the same period last year. "The pendulum of consumer preference is swinging in favor of smaller SUVs, crossovers, hybrids and passenger cars," said Jim Press, TMS executive vice president and COO. "It's the breadth of our lineup that enables us to satisfy today's buyers."

The Toyota Division reported May sales of 175,038, up 7.6%. The Lexus Division recorded best-ever May sales with 26,455 units sold, an increase of 9.6%. Toyota Division passenger cars posted record May sales of 103,630, up 14.6% over the same period last year. The all-new 2005 Avalon fullsize sedan enjoyed sales of 9,165, up 166.8%. The Prius gas-electric hybrid midsize sedan posted best-ever May sales of 9,461, an increase of 158.7%.

Scion reported best-ever May sales with 13,229 units sold. The tC sports coupe, which debuted last summer, led the way with 6,436 units sold. The popular xB subcompact recorded its best-ever May with 4,592 units sold, an increase of 32.3% over May of last year.

Toyota Division light-truck sales were led by the Tundra fullsize pickup with May sales of 10,557 units, an increase of 18.4%. The Rav4 compact SUV recorded a sales increase of three percent over May of last year with 6,829 units.

Lexus passenger cars posted strong May sales with 12,641 units, an increase of 7.3%. Sales momentum continued following the late February launch of the all-new 2006 GS 300 and GS 430 luxury performance sedans. The GS 300 had sales of 2,503, an increase of 304.1%, while the GS 430 posted sales of 638, an increase of 367%. Lexus Division light trucks produced best-ever May sales with 13,814 units, up 11.7%. The 2006 RX 400h, launched in April as the world's first luxury hybrid vehicle, reported sales of 2,931 units for the month. The RX 330 luxury SUV, on which the RX 400h is based, enjoyed combined May sales of 10,707 units, an increase of 20.1%.

Sales of North-American-built vehicles accounted for 63.5% of total May sales. There were 24 selling days this sales month compared to 26 last May.

Source: Toyota
 
INCREASED CONSUMER SPENDING SIGNALS OPTIMISM ABOUT SMALL-BUSINESS GROWTH

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Visa USA, two of the nation’s leading small-business advocates, released new economic and payment-card research forecasting continued positive growth for small businesses throughout the United States through the coming summer months. But while small-business growth across the nation is expected to remain solid, the research also shows that Ohio and the Midwest will trail other regions of the country.

Through the NFIB’s Small-Business ConditionsSM report and Visa’s SpendTrak report, a snapshot of national and regional card spending by consumers, small-business owners received an economic picture that married larger economic conditions with spending trends on Visa cards. Among the findings:

According to NFIB’s Small-Business ConditionsSM covering 26 states:

Visa’s payment-card data shows retail spending in the region continues to gain momentum, but still trails the national average. The data covers spending on Visa-branded payment cards from January 1 through May 15.

Source: National Federation of Independent Business

ECONOMY AT A GLANCE: FUEL VS. AUTO SALES AND CURRENT MARKET SUMMARY 


Table 5 0615

 

Finance Market Summary: June 15 11:11am EST
Indicator Value Change From Previous % Change
Dow 10,518.34 -29.23 (-0.28%)
Nasdaq 2,058.37 -10.67 (-0.52%)
S&P 500 1,200.85 -3.06 (-0.25%)
10-Yr Bond 4.127% 0.00  
NYSE Volume   614,226,000  
Nasdaq Volume   614,218,000  
Source: Ameritrade, Cybertrader, Schwab Active Trader, TD Waterhouse

 

Monthly Commodity Prices
 
January
February
March
April
May
Aluminum ($ / metric ton)
1,834
1,883
1,980
1,894
1,744
Steel - hot rolled coil/sheet ($ / metric ton)
550
587.5
612.5
650
650
Steel - cold rolled coil/sheet ($ / metric ton)
650
687.5
712.5
750
750
Woodpulp ($ / metric ton)
661.8
678
691.1
674.7
674.7
Rubber, U.S. ($ / kg)
1.415
1.460
1.473
1.472
1.477
Source : World Bank

 

Source: SEMA Research and Information Center

LOW RATE OF JOB CREATION HIGHTENS CONCERN FOR ECONOMY 

May experienced its smallest job gain since Aug 2003, well below forecasts. The U.S unemployment rate dropped a 10th of a percent to 5.1%, which is a weakness in the economy spread across many industries. The average work week was steady at 33.8 hours and wage inflation was mild. Uncertainty remains as analysts differ in predicting the Fed's course beyond its next meeting, but there is general agreement that the Fed will again hike rates 1/4 point at its June meeting.
 
Despite consumer confidence rising 4.7 points, the Institute for Supply Management said the non-manufacturing index was down to 58.5 from 61.7 in April, and 63.1 in March. Although 78,000 jobs were added in May, this is 107,000 fewer than expected. The service sector hired 64,000, but manufacturers cut payrolls by 7,000. Also, the leisure and hospitality industry and professional and business services trimmed payrolls by 6,000 and 1,000, respectively. Retailers and the construction segment added jobs but at much lower rates than the previous month. The average hourly earnings of private sector workers rose $.03.

According to Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight, "There is very little to cheer about in today's employment report. U.S. companies are facing a lot of head winds these days: near-record oil prices, sluggish growth overseas and a strengthening dollar. This is making most executives much more cautious about hiring."

Source: www.automotivedigest.com 

PROTOTYPE ENGINE VARIES COMPRESSION RATIO WHILE RUNNING 

A system for infinitely varying the compression ratio of a running engine has been developed in France. The design allows compression ratio to be adjusted “on the fly” to optimize performance according to engine speed and load. Infinitely varying compression ratio also enhances combustion of the fuel mixture for benefits in economy and emissions. The new French design is one of several recent prototype engines espousing the potential of variable compression.

Ratio changes in the range between 9:1 and 14:1 for a gasoline engine are enabled by an eccentric fitted within an enlarged big end of the connecting rod. The eccentric is centered on the crankpin, with the rotary position of the eccentric's outer ring determining the stroke of the connecting rod and thus the relationship of the piston at top dead center (TDC) to the cylinder head. Incremental rotation of the eccentric's outer ring is handled by a piezoelectric actuator thrusting against a narrow lug on the ring flank.

 


The actuator is cleverly mounted on the crankshaft counterweight and bears against a small rocker arm that engages the lug. A sequence of pulsed micro-millimeter actuator movements is controlled by dedicated mapping incorporated in the engine-management module. Precise positional feedback related to compression ratio is delivered by a Foucault sensor—a quartz-based measuring device commonly used in aerospace, medical and defense applications. For the French prototype engine, the Foucault sensor's operating frequency is 50 kHz, with positional accuracy within 0.05 mm.

Shown on a single-cylinder motorcycle engine at this year's International Inventors Exhibition, the concept was developed under the auspices of FAAR Industry, a leading French automotive consultancy specializing in electronic, network and software design. A non-contact control system being evaluated uses electromagnetic signals from a sender in the crankcase to a receptor on the crankshaft counterbalance.

Source: www.wardsauto.com 

NEW CERAMIC BRAKE PADS REDUCE NOISE AND DUST FOR TUNERS

Akebono Corp. announced the availability of its EURO™ and Akebono Street Performance™ Application Catalogs. Each one of these exciting new catalogs is designed and geared towards their specific market:

The EURO Catalog—Contains 87 part numbers that represent about 90% of the late-model European applications, from Audi to Volvo, and most include front and rear applications. This product line gives distributors, jobbers, repair facilities and ultimately the European car owner a unique alternative to the typical dusty, noisy European brake pads. These ceramic based pads virtually eliminate dust and noise while maintaining a very positive pedal feel.

The Akebono Street Performance Catalog—Contains 55 part numbers that target the "tuner" or "enthusiast" car owner. Brake performance and shiny wheels go hand-in-hand with Akebono Street Performance pads. Say good-bye to the typical noisy wheel tarnishing performance pads. Again this product line gives distributors, jobbers, repair facilities and the car owner a unique alternative to the competitors. These ceramic-based pads virtually eliminate dust, which help keep wheels clean with OE fit and enhanced braking performance.

Source: Akebono Corp. 

DIESEL "BIONIC CAR" ACHIEVES UP TO 84 MPG

DaimlerChrysler is using a new concept vehicle to examine the great potential of bionics for automobile development, and has achieved outstanding results for fuel consumption and emissions with a combination of pioneering diesel-engine technology and innovative emissions-control methods. The Mercedes-Benz bionic car study had its world premiere at DaimlerChrysler’s Innovation Symposium in Washington. To realize the Mercedes-Benz bionic car, the engineers at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre and the DaimlerChrysler Research department have for the first time looked for a specific example in nature which not only approximates to the idea of an aerodynamic, safe, comfortable and environmentally compatible car in terms of details, but as a formal and structural whole. The example arrived at was the boxfish.

 


Despite its boxy, cube-shaped body, this tropical fish is in fact outstandingly streamlined and therefore represents an aerodynamic ideal. With an accurately constructed model of the boxfish the engineers in Stuttgart were able to achieve a wind drag coefficient of just 0.06 in the wind tunnel.

In order to use this great potential for automobile development purposes, specialists at DaimlerChrysler first created a 1:4 car model whose shape was substantially based on the boxfish. During tests in the wind tunnel, a drag coefficient of 0.095—a previously unprecedented value in automotive engineering—was measured for this clay model. It corresponds to the values achieved with highly streamlined shapes and other aerodynamically ideal forms.

In addition to superb aerodynamics and a lightweight construction concept derived from nature, the 103 kW/140-hp diesel engine and innovative SCR technology (Selective Catalytic Reduction) greatly contribute to fuel economy and a further reduction in exhaust emissions. In the EU driving cycle the concept car has a fuel consumption 20 less than a comparable series-production car. In accordance with the U.S. measuring method (FTP 75) the range is around 70 miles per U.S. gallon (combined), which is about 30% more than for a standard-production car. At a constant speed the direct-injection diesel unit has a range of 84 miles per gallon in the U.S. test cycle.

DaimlerChrysler is currently testing its SCR technology worldwide. By this means, and with the additional operating fluid "AdBlue," the nitrogen oxide emissions of the direct-injection diesel engine can be reduced by up to 80%. The aim of these trials is to avoid the fuel consumption disadvantages by optimizing the in-engine combustion processes. This is where Mercedes-Benz car engineers are benefiting from the experience gained by their colleagues in the commercial-vehicle sector, where SCR technology is already in successful use. DaimlerChrysler also intends to use the great potential of this process for diesel passenger cars, and will initially be offering SCR technology in the United States when the trials have been completed.

"AdBlue" is an aqueous urea solution which is sprayed into the exhaust system in precisely metered quantities, depending on the engine operating status. This converts the nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water. The reservoir for this service fluid is located in the spare wheel recess of the concept car, and its capacity is sufficient for a mileage corresponding to the service interval for a current Mercedes diesel model. The Mercedes-Benz bionic car study is also equipped with a maintenance-free diesel particulate filter.

Source: DaimlerChrysler

WORLD'S HIGHEST FUEL-INJECTION PRESSURE FOR DIESEL: MORE POWER!

DENSO Corp. has jointly developed with Toyota Motor Corp. the world's first 1,800-bar diesel common-rail system with newly developed piezo injectors. This system is installed on the Toyota Avensis, available in Europe since May.

"A key challenge with diesel engines is reducing NOx, Particulate Matter (PM) and other harmful substances in the exhaust gas, which is something we have to do to meet increasingly rigorous regulations," said Hiromi Tokuda, managing officer in charge of DENSO's Powertrain Control System Group. "Our 1800-bar common-rail diesel system with piezo injectors will help us continue to contribute to cleaner diesel engine emissions, while providing higher performance for consumers."
 

DENSO's current 1,800-bar common-rail diesel system achieves the world's highest fuel-injection pressure, performing up to five high-accuracy injections during each combustion stroke. The new system uses highly responsive piezo injectors to attain a shorter injection duration and realize a finer fuel atomization spray, resulting in improved combustion performance.
 

As a result, Tokuda said, the system generates more engine power and reduces harmful emissions, such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and PM. Compared to a solenoid injector, this piezo injector, with its DENSO-developed highly reliable piezo element, reduces the minimum injection interval from 0.4 milliseconds to 0.1 millisecond, the shortest interval in the world.

DENSO also supplies a filter (cordierite DPF material) and an exhaust fuel addition injector that injects fuel into the exhaust pipe to burn PM collected in the filter. Both products are installed in the DPNR (Diesel Particulate NOx Reduction) system, which purifies exhaust gas, of the Toyota Avensis.

Source: DENSO Corp.

STEER-BY-WIRE FORECASTED IN HALF THE WORLD'S CARS

Steer-By-Wire, also known as Electric Power Steering Systems (EPS), involves using a direct linkage from the steering wheel to the steering mechanism via wires and electromagnetic actuators.  Although estimates of future penetration levels by region and worldwide vary, there is complete agreement that the trend is upwards. The only disagreements concern the slope of the trend and at what level it might plateau. Delphi anticipates that worldwide adoption rates of EPS will reach 20% of the light-vehicle market by 2007. European penetration during that timeframe could reach as high as 33%, says Delphi. Koyo Seiko also anticipate exponential growth for EPS; predicting that it will be fitted to more than 30% of new cars built worldwide in 2005, equivalent to 20 million vehicles. Looking further ahead, TRW forecast that by 2010, 50% of cars produced worldwide will incorporate some form of electrical assistance integrated into the steering system.

Steer-By-Wire involves a better use of material due to dispensing of mechanical parts, more freedom of design in the interior of the vehicle and the communication linkage among steering, braking and throttle, leading to less engine wear, better fuel economy and easier maintenance. Some of the benefits of this system include:

TRW’s electrically assisted steering (EAS), for example, is a power-assist system that eliminates the connection between the engine and steering system. Its migratory product, EPHS (Electrically Powered Hydraulic Steering) replaces the customary belts and pulleys with a brushless motor that drives a hydraulic power steering pump in a conventional rack and pinion steering system. EPS takes EAS technology a step further, eliminating hydraulic fluid and the accompanying hardware completely. An EPS module includes the motor, torque sensor, electronic control unit (ECU) and control/diagnostic software. Although EPHS was initially considered a transitionary technology—preceding the arrival of full EPS systems—manufacturers now predict a strong growth path.

ArvinMeritor Inc. recently announced plans for its Light Vehicle Systems (LVS) business group to develop and commercialize a series of hydraulically coupled, electric power-steering systems designed to outperform other electric power steering (EPS) systems. This on-demand power-steering system, which is not constrained to packaging on the rack, will provide improved vehicle control, quicker steering response and measurable fuel savings for a full range of vehicles. Consuming only the power it needs, when it needs it, the system is capable of adding functionality such as active return, autonomous parking and lane departure warning.

Although power rack and pinion steering systems look set to dominate the global vehicle market for some years to come—currently accounting for 75% of the global market—demand is gradually switching to electric power steering mainly due to fuel consumption and logistical benefits.

Source: Research and Markets/SEMA Research and Information Center

PLASTIC DOOR MODULE REDUCES WEIGHT AND NOISE

ArvinMeritor Inc. (NYSE:ARM) announced that its Light Vehicle Systems (LVS) business group has begun marketing its Highly-Integrated Plastic (HIP) door module to customers as an alternative to traditional steel door carrier frames. ArvinMeritor's HIP door module, made from a lightweight, high-strength plastic composite, reduces the cost of the door module by integrating a number of electrical and mechanical components into the plastic mold.

 


"Traditional door modules mount the window regulator, latch, speaker, motor and electronics to a large steel carrier plate using a number of bolts and clips," said Charles Hopson, vice president of Engineering for Door Systems within LVS. "Through plastics molding technology, ArvinMeritor has designed a number of components, such as rivets, fittings and guide rails, directly into the plastic module for improved product quality and reduced assembly complexity."

In addition to assembly simplification, the HIP door module weighs approximately 25% less than its steel counterpart. And, because the plastic composite is more sound-absorbent than steel, the HIP will help to reduce the amount of road noise that enters the interior of the vehicle.

Source: ArvinMeritor Inc.

VEHICLES TALKING TO EACH OTHER? 

A pioneering initiative was shown at the DaimlerChrysler Innovation Symposium by research engineers from the Research and Technology Center North America, based in Palo Alto, California. For the first time, DaimlerChrysler presented a dynamic driving demonstration of broadband car-to-car communication between a Mercedes-Benz E-Class and a Dodge Durango. With this initiative, DaimlerChrysler was the first automaker to publicly test this new wireless communications technology. The company is moving forward with this Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) technology, which makes real-time communication possible between a vehicle and roadside stations, and from one vehicle to another.

With the aid of car-to-car communications, the selective forwarding of information helps to optimize traffic flow and appreciably enhances traffic safety. For example, if a vehicle encounters a critical situation such as congestion, fog, ice or an accident, it can pass the relevant information on to all road users in the immediate vicinity of the danger spot. Traffic approaching from further away is given ample warning and can respond to the situation.

Cars equipped with DSRC can communicate directly with one another, also making it possible to transmit braking signals back over several vehicles, giving drivers early warning that they might soon have to brake. In this information network, each vehicle can take on the role of a sender, receiver or router. It allows a chain of information to be passed on, like a relay race. With the aid of this process, known as multi-hopping, information can be spread further to cover a substantial distance.

The data exchange between vehicles is made possible by ad-hoc networks. These short-distance connections are spontaneously created between the vehicles as the need arises and can organize themselves without the help of any external infrastructure. DCRS uses Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology to transmit data at 5.9 Gigahertz over a distance of up to 1,000 meters.

The technology represents a further significant milestone towards realizing the vision of accident-free driving. According to investigations by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 88% of all rear-end accidents are the result either of inattention on the part of the driver or of travelling too closely to the vehicle in front. DCRS can help prevent such accidents or reduce their severity.

The system is primarily designed to enhance safety and improve traffic flow on the road, but it can also be used to transmit other data such as digital music, movies or even map updates for the on-board navigation system into the vehicle, which could be added benefits and value.

DaimlerChrysler is working with the Federal DOT and several states (Michigan, California and Florida) to prepare demonstration tests of vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Working through the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) initiative, DOT is expected to select a set of locations for a series of progressively more integrated tests from 2005 through the end of the decade.

Source: DaimlerChrysler
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Opinions and statements expressed herein are taken from the listed publications and do not necessarily reflect the views of SEMA.  SEMA is not responsible for factual errors.