The trend toward fuel efficiency isn't going away in 2012, or at any time in the foreseeable future. Because automakers are already on the hook to push their Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) to 35.5mpg by 2016, and 54.5mpg by 2025, they're going to be working hard on any feature that can eliminate even the smallest sip of gasoline. The most effective way to accomplish that is through the introduction of electric cars and hybrids of various types.
The innovation won't stop there, however. In 2012, we'll see the industry pushing the limits on a number of different fronts. Autonomous driving technologies will become more prominent. EV battery sizes will increase. Multicore processors will make a bigger move into the vehicle. And as that happens, engineers will fret about the electronic complexity that's taking over the automobile.
Click the image below to start a slideshow of the top 5 automotive trends to watch for in 2012.
The automotive world's migration to hybrid vehicles won't slow down in 2012. Ford Motor Co. will roll out its C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, while Toyota unveils its Prius PHV. But the show-stealer could be the "micro-hybrid," or "start-stop" car. The micro-hybrid, which has been quietly waiting in the wings for years, will make its biggest move yet in the coming year. Ford, Chevy, Buick, Kia, and others will roll out the technology in 2012, joining a handful of models from Fiat, Volvo, and Alfa Romeo that already have it. At its most rudimentary level, start-stop will enable vehicles to turn off their engines while waiting at stop lights, stop signs, or in heavy traffic. Soon, however, it will go beyond that level, enabling engines to shut down while a vehicle is coasting, in some cases as fast as 75mph. Experts say that the technology will be employed on every new car by 2025, making it impossible for even the most dedicated gasoline burners to avoid it. Bosch's start-stop starters, shown, can reduce a vehicle's fuel consumption by 5 percent.
(Source: Robert Bosch LLC)
To keep up with our coverage of all things EV, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Chevy Volt across America to interview engineers.
benmlee2, you said "The only place where weight comes into play is which party gets hurt more." Only? For me, that's the top reason not to have a smaller car. But I wasn't talking about driving a Hummer, I meant more like the Nissan Sentra-sized compact I drive today. OTOH, I was driving one of those years back when a semi driver tried to run me off the road, who knows why. It's happened more than once. That aggressive behavior you describe has been going on for decades, though it does go in cycles.
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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