Under-floor module

The recyclable under-floor module uses glass-filled polypropylene shields and baffles, and aluminum thermal components to improve aerodynamics, acoustics, and thermodynamics. A hinged, articulated construction simplifies access to servicable components.

The underside of almost any car is typically a hodgepodge of unrelated components. Even the hottest Ferrari isn't much to look at when viewed from underneath-just a jumble of exhaust pipes, driveline and front-end parts, some heat shields, brake lines, fuel lines, emergency brake cables, and areas of acoustical coating.

Though the structure had never been considered a system before, Rieter engineers elected to design an integrated under-floor module. Their goals? Reduce the coefficient of drag by at least 10% to improve fuel economy; improve acoustical performance by eliminating wind noise; remove several pounds of sprayed-on PVC coatings; reduce in-car floor temperatures at least 15%; and design a system that's 100% end-of-life recyclable and doesn't create any major service impediments.

The resulting module includes an under-floor panel that covers most of the vehicle's underside, heat shields in strategically located positions, air-inlet vents for efficient engine cooling, wheelhouses that aerodynamically route air flow, and a streamlined spare-wheel well. Approximately 500,000 production vehicles currently use Rieter's under-floor module, most notably the Mercedes A class. The company projects that nearly 4 million units will be in production vehicles by 2006.

Jeff VanBuskirk, Rieter Automotive Systems, 38555 Hills Tech Dr., Farmington Hills, MI 48331; Tel: (248) 324-2261; Fax: (248) 848-4279; E-mail: jeff.vanbuskirk@rieterauto.com; www.rieter.com. Enter 509 at www.designnews.com/info

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