DN Staff

February 17, 2003

3 Min Read
Hot Moves in Automotive Design

Bye Bye, Gasoline- Car emissions are becoming increasingly critical for the planet -and for automotive manufacturers. With ever-stricter emission standards coming down the road, the OEMs are working full out on a variety of alternative-fuel passenger vehicles. Some technologies won 't be commercially available for another eight to ten years, but there have been significant advances in both existing and future vehicles using alternative energies. Not your father 's diesel. Diesel is a long established fuel, but to most Americans it brings to mind noisy truck engines with sooty clouds of exhaust spewing out. Only 2% of all U.S. passenger cars run on diesel, but diesel vehicles have become much cleaner, and might be set for a come-back. In fact, the Chrysler Group has announced that it will launch a diesel version of the Jeep Liberty in the U.S. market in 2004.

Glass Grows- Glass won 't bring car buyers into showrooms, and it isn't going to be something that most people think about when they pick their next vehicle. But it's exciting and extremely important for automotive designers, who see glass as one of the most important styling elements. Colored panels, hydrophobic glass and laminated side windows are a few of the emerging silicon-based technologies that could soon arrive in showrooms. These advances will augment a trend that 's been going on for years: putting more glass on a car. "We're putting larger and larger panels on the vehicle," says Tom Hagen,, General Motors' technical integration engineer for glass systems..He adds that when he joined GM in the early 1980s,windshields were around 0.7m and rear windows were about 0.5m. Today,that 's more than doubled, to around 1.3m for windshields and 1.2m for back windows.

Gates Rubbers'- The increased use of electrically powered options in cars, as well as anticipated growth in hybrid vehicles, is placing a heavy burden on existing types of alternators. As a result, automakers are working to convert from 14 to 42V electrical systems. One design approach to a 42V system involves an integrated starter generator (ISG) motor that is mounted on the crankshaft between the engine and the transmission. The problem with ISGs, however, is that they require a major redesign of the drive train, and are costly to manufacture and service, says Tim Haven, market manager for Gates Rubber Co.(Denver,CO). Gates realized that its own core technology could provide a solution that would make the transition to 42V electrical systems much easier. Using MSC.MARC, it developed an Electro-Mechanical Drive (EMD) system that can perform all the functions of an ISG at far lower cost, with a much easier conversion.

Mini Cooper Maxi Grabber- Park this car in your driveway and you'll be plagued into the wee hours by friends, neighbors, and passersby, so be prepared. The Mini Cooper, which began selling in the U.S. in spring 2002,is an irresistible mixture of cute and class reminiscent of the original Austin Mini of the 60s.But don 't be fooled: This contemporary version is a different animal, with all the creature comforts and safety features of the modern age. When the Mini subsidiary of BMW took on the job of resurrecting the 60 's icon, the first thing designers did was to examine the original Mini from hood insignia to tailpipe. They analyzed everything from the car 's ride and crash behavior to comfort and handling. What they uncovered were numerous quality and safety issues.

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