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The Delphi Communiport Infotainment PC radio—nav system, e-mail device, telephone, audio system, etc.—will be available on a model year 2001 vehicle.

This Ford F-150 Super Crew is built Ford tough thanks, in part, to SMC fenders.

Bosch is providing a common rail fuel system for 2001 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra models; the injection system will be produced in Charleston, SC.

ZF’s six-speed transmission for passenger car use.

Words Heard at SAE 2000: A Select Sampling of the Buzz

At this year’s SAE 2000 Congress & Exposition there was plenty of buzz and noise inside Cobo Center (including a Visteon-draped People Mover that rolled above the record-setting crowd). Here’s some of the audio, filtered.

The Word from Delphi Automotive Systems: Electronics

“We expect that by 2005, electronics and other high tech-systems will account for 60% of our business, versus approximately 40% today,” stated J.T. Battenberg, Delphi chairman, chief executive officer and president.

Delphi created four areas to categorize the products that it is providing to the market (and not just to the traditional automotive market: in 1999, it booked $400 million in non-automotive business, with companies including Deere, Caterpillar, Harley-Davidson, and Komatsu):

  • Safety
  • Environment
  • Vehicle Integration
  • Comfort, Convenience, Connectivity

Arguably (and actually), all of the categories contain electronics content.

For Safety, they are looking at the integration of a multiplicity of systems—from heads-up display to adaptive cruise control to what is de rigueur, it seems, today: onboard telematics (e.g., hands-free phone; navigation). Electronics: check; check; check; check.

Environment brings to bear systems including 42-volt architecture (see “The Word from Yazaki and JCI,”) and non-thermal plasma exhaust after-treatment.

Vehicle Integration might seem as though we are now in the area of more mechanical things, like front end modules, modular cockpits, and modular doors, but Battenberg noted, “Our electrical and electronics expertise helps us develop and deliver modular systems that meet our customers’ needs for greater flexibility, simplified manufacturing, and affordable, one-stop shopping.” (We’re not sure what that Circuit City-like reference means.)

Comfort, Convenience, Connectivity—yes, this is where the electronics really reside. Battenberg: “We have booked $2.5 billion for our mobile multimedia products alone.”

Among the multimedia line-up are the “Communiport Mobile MultiMedia Infotainment System,” rear seat audio/video that makes use of a fiber-optic linkage, and a thermal management system that adjusts the climate based on the position and body temperature of the occupant.

The implication of the Word: If you aren’t busy working electronics capabilities, you’re probably going to be passed by.

The Word from the Automotive Composites Alliance: Plastics

Specifically, they’re noting that there are new applications, such as structural reaction injection molding (SRIM) box inner panels and tailgate pieces and reaction injection molding (RRIM) box outer panels and fenders on the 2001 Chevrolet 1500 Series 4WD Extended Cab Silverado; sheet molding composite (SMC) pickup box on the 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac; SMC liftgate and cargo door assembly on the 2000 Ford Excursion; semi-conductive SMC radiator support assembly on the 2000 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable; and more.

The reason for all this: the niche-ing of trucks. Vehicle manufacturers are able to provide modifications via bits, boxes and panels made of various composites with a tooling cost that is said to be as much as 50% less than what would be required for steel (as long as the volume is less than 200,000 vehicles per year).

The implication of the Word: More niche vehicles may mean more composites.

The Word from Bosch: Efficiency


Consider, for example technologies developed for windshield wiping. There is a wiper drive unit that has a compact electrical controller coupled with a reversing motor. This combination eliminates the need for the mechanical linkages necessary for conventional wiper motors, which have just one direction of rotation, to sweep back and forth.

Bosch engineers have also developed a two-motor wiper system that can be used in place of the conventional single motor. This means that the connecting rods otherwise necessary are eliminated. And the packaging volume is less than that required for a single motor. What’s more, the electronic controller used for the motors permit the definition of specific wipe patterns for specific vehicles such that if there is more than one vehicle model being built on a single assembly line, the appropriate wipe pattern can be programmed on the line.

There’s efficiency in the diesel direct-injection (DI) common rail fuel system that the Bosch plant in Charleston, SC, will begin producing later this year. The system will become available on the GM Duramax Diesel 6600 engine, which will be available on 2001 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra vehicles. What makes this system different is that pressure generation is independent of the engine speed; based on inputs from the electronic driver unit (EDU) and engine control module (ECM), the most effective combustion for existing conditions can be achieved.

(Not surprisingly, Bosch is working the information/entertainment/communications/multimedia area, too, not only with its own products, such as stereo gear from its Blaupunkt operation, but also with Nintendo.)

The implication of the Word: Efficiency is paying off for Bosch—its total automotive sales in North America grew in 1999 by more than eight percent to $4.2 billion.

The Word from Prospects: Safer

Everyone is familiar with the fast-down function found on most driver’s side power windows. But what about fast-up? Prospects has developed a system that it is calling “smartwindow” that can facilitate this. It’s based on infrared sensor technologies that essentially create an invisible light curtain across the window aperture. The sensor unit (the current version measures 12 mm wide and 50 mm long) is mounted in the interior door trim, opposite the sideview mirror. To assure the proper positioning vis-a-vis the window opening, the sensor’s position goes back to the sheet metal structure during vehicle assembly. Whenever the light curtain is penetrated, the window stops without having to contact anything. (There are a variety of other functions, such as allowing the window to automatically open depending on the temperature in the vehicle or close if moisture is detected. A variant of the system has been developed for powered minivan sliding doors.)

The sensor, which operates on 9-16 volt power, doesn’t require modification of existing components.

The implication of the Word: Some ’03 or ’04 models will have a new feature to brag about.

The Word from Yazaki and JCI: 42-volts

“The electronics revolution is having a huge impact on vehicle design—and vehicle electronics content is soaring. Automakers already have lots of power-hungry systems and devices on board—and there will be many more as we bring added ‘intelligence’ to vehicle systems—and offer Internet-linked cars, navigation, enhanced entertainment systems, new safety and security technologies—and more,” stated Jim Geschke, vice president of Electronics Integration, Johnson Controls (JCI), with what could be arguably considered an understatement.

To deal with this power hungriness, JCI is working with Yazaki North America to develop a 42-volt systems architecture. JCI has a 42-volt battery system, the Inspira, that is housed in what is called the Advanced Power System (APS). A key element that Yazaki is bringing to the party is its Smart Load Control Center (SmartLCC).

One of the key issues regarding 42-volt architecture is that plenty of electrical elements in a vehicle—think of lights and small electric motors—can’t deal with all of that power. Think poof!

So SmartLCC provides the means (pulse-width modulation) to adjust the power for specific devices.

Not only does the 42-volt battery have a small footprint, which means plenty of power without taking up too much under-the-hood space, but the conversion capability provided by the SmartLCC (it should be noted that there is also a DC/DC converter in the APS) means that by going with a single 42-volt system rather than a 42-volt and 14-volt arrangement, as some companies suggest, wiring harness size and complexity are reduced.

The implication of the Word: Given the proclivity of OEMs to generate gadgets, 42-volts aren’t too far in the future.

The Word from ZF: Six

ZF Group has been providing Ford with the S6-650 Ecolite transmission for the F-Series pickups since 1997. GM is now bringing the six-speed transmissions to its one-ton Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks. All of this demand is causing ZF to reconfigure its transmission assembly line in its Gainesville, Georgia, plant to assure both quality and reliability of the product.

Six-speed trannys are not particularly surprising with regard to trucks. But now ZF has developed a six-speed automatic for passenger cars. The 6 HP 26, which is the first in a series of six-speed boxes that ZF has planned (e.g., they’re developing one for all-wheel-drive vehicles), has the sixth gear positioned in the “long” ratio range; it lowers speeds and reduces noise and fuel consumption on the order of 5 to 7%.

The control is provided by a mechatronics module: a package that combines a hydraulic shift unit and an integrated electronics module, all of which are located in the transmission housing.

Not only does the new transmission provide improved efficiencies and functionalities (e.g., the electronic control system uses what ZF calls ASIS, or Adaptive Shift Strategy, which evaluates the operating conditions and driver actions to determine optimal shifting points), but it is 13% lighter than a typical five-speed transmission.

The implication of the Word: ZF has been offering five-speed transmissions since 1990, and those units account for 80% of the company’s automatic transmission business passenger cars. Yet company management fully expects the six-speed to replace the five-speed models.

The Word from DuPont: Cost Reduction

“The focus on cost reduction has reached its highest level in the last six years,” said Walter Fields, vice president, DuPont Automotive Engineering Materials. He was referencing the sixth annual DuPont Automotive/SAE survey of automotive engineers and designers.

According to the survey, 50% of the respondents say that when it comes to design and engineering challenges, cost reduction is the top concern—and that’s up 19% from the previous year’s survey.

And when it comes to what they think an OEM is looking for when it comes to a supplier, 72% said that low cost/price are number-one concern, with quality taking a distant second, at 41%.

Fields admitted that as a consumer, he’s not unhappy that the price of vehicles is declining. But as someone responsible for providing polymers to the industry, there are some challenges inherent in the price-down pressures that are combined with the need for suppliers like DuPont to provide engineering, design and testing resources. Fields suggested that the auto industry needs “a longer-term view. One that considers building a ‘value chain’—a higher order supply chain—that treats the players within the chain as an investment necessary to deliver the kind of value a consumer needs.”

The implication of the Word: DuPont was pleased that in 1999 plastics use in vehicles hit a record 79 billion pounds. Although Fields speculates that there won’t be as many vehicles built in 2000, “We see this usage increasing despite lower builds as plastics continually proves its value. That value is proven not just in terms of reduced weight but in total cost reduction through integration and through simplified production.”

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