A few years ago, the major car manufacturers were all bringing fuel cell concept cars to the auto show circuit. There was a lot of excitement in the press and amongst consumers. The environmental benefits and potential of having a car that achieved great fuel efficiency without the need for a long recharge was attractive. And then, suddenly those concept cars disappeared from the public eye.
However, universities and car companies were still at it. One of the most interesting concepts is to use a hydrogen fuel cell as part of a hybrid electric vehicle. By utilizing a fuel cell, the hybrid would run clean even when it is not running on battery and fill up times would be comparable to a traditional car. By utilizing this range extender concept, the expensive and sizeable battery of a pure EV would be unnecessary which would dramatically reduce the cost of an alternative powertrain.
Automotive IQ recently performed a market survey to determine whether the auto industry thinks fuel cells are viable as a range extender concept. 80% of respondents said yes. Below is a graphic representing the timeframe that respondents believe is likely for fuel cells to achieve a significant market share. To view the full results of our survey click here.
Recently, the New York Times’ Auto Section reported that the Chinese auto market is beginning to prefer larger cars. There is a certain logic behind this. An increasing number of Chinese are able to afford cars and it goes to follow that an increasing number can also afford more spacious and luxurious cars. But a cultural shift is also occurring as SUVs are no longer seen as a reminder of the rural setting that many chose to escape by moving to cities.
Auto manufacturers are quick to take advantage of this cultural shift as GM, Ford and Chrysler have all indicated that they will begin promoting and manufacturing S.U.V. models in China. Inevitably, these larger vehicles will consume more fuel, and create more emissions. But what responsibility do auto manufacturers really have toward a society faced with growing environmental woes? Should auto companies voluntarily adhere to more stringent fuel consumption and emissions standards than are currently legislated as a form of social responsibility?
In 1970, the economist Milton Friedman famously wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine in which he stated:
There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.
Whether or not you believe that a business or an industry has a social responsibility, companies do engage in actions that benefit the community or the larger society in which they operate/sell. Some companies, Whole Foods’ Market for example, make these actions a part of their mission statement. Other companies proactively exceed environmental and safety targets set by legislation. Their reasons for doing so may be to head off future costly legislation by showing that even in the absence of more stringent regulation, improvements are occurring. In the example of safety standards, vehicle manufacturers often exceed government crash safety regulations because consumers put safety as a priority when buying a car. Therefore, exceeding the mandated standards is not only socially responsible but a good business decision.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alfred Eckert, Head of Advanced Engineering at Chassis & Safety, and Thomas Gallner, Overall Vehicle E/E Architecture. Both work for Continental in Germany. It was a great conversation and very enlightening about the what the future holds in terms of safety and autonomous vehicles. We also discussed the potential of moving to a 48 volt power supply to supplement the current 12 volt system in cars. The full interview is available by clicking on the image below:
Autonomous driving has come up in quite a few discussions recently. Some people express excitement at the prospect of being able to relax in the car, others express fear of not being fully in control. Yet a third group seems to despair at the idea that the car as-we-know-it may cease to exist. Admittedly, I am a car-enthusiast and the prospect of such a revolutionary change is daunting. However, it’s unlikely that the transition into autonomous vehicles will be quite so dramatic and revolutionary. According to Alfred Eckert, “…in the future, there will be cars. There will be a steering wheel in front of the driver. There will be pedals…the process needs to change fluidly. You cannot say, okay, now you have to drive this vehicle without a steering wheel. Can you imagine the ensuing discussion?”
Continental has set a time frame for their development of autonomous vehicle systems. Their goal is that by 2016, vehicles will be available with systems allowing driver’s to transfer control over to the car in heavy traffic situations up to about 30 km/hr. By 2025, fully automated driving should be available but only for highway scenarios.
Driving enthusiast or not, you have to admire the work these engineers are doing. Not only is the technology amazing, but its potential to save lives is incredibly important.
During his State of the Union speech in February, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “Tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive trans-Atlantic trade and investment partnership with the European Union.” One month later, the European Commission agreed on a draft mandate for the partnership and sent it to the Council for the Member States for approval in order to begin the next round of negotiations. At the speed of international politics, so far this one is breaking the sound barrier. What would a free trade agreement mean for the auto industries of the U.S. and the European Union?
Currently, the European auto industry is experiencing a slump. EU car sales came in at the lowest recorded for a month of February since record keeping began in 1990 even bearing in mind that the EU only had 15 Members States at that time. Ian Fletcher, an analyst at IHS Automotive in London, predicts that the EU automotive market will contract another 2.6% in 2013. Clearly, the car market is struggling.
The Centre for Economic Policy Research in London was appointed by the European Commission to perform an in-depth study on the potential effects of a free trade agreement between the EU and the U.S. Their study details the potential impact of various policy scenarios not only on the two main players but also on the global economy. Under what is termed an “ambitious and comprehensive” scenario, the sector set to gain the largest boost is motor vehicles where EU exports (worldwide) could increase by almost 42% and imports would be up 43%. Motor vehicle exports specifically to the US are expected to increase by 149%.
One of the most important considerations for a potential trans-Atlantic trade liberalization is to reduce “non-tariff” barriers such as customs procedures and behind-the-border regulatory restrictions. It is certainly in the auto industry’s best interest to have better harmonized standards in order to reduce testing and development costs for individual markets.
The main barriers to a comprehensive agreement lie with industries such as agriculture where Europeans are wary of GMO goods which are more common in the U.S. There are also concerns over privacy restrictions that differ across the two trade blocs. At Automotive IQ, we’ll be paying close attention to any new developments with this potential trans-Atlantic partnership.
“European Commission Fires Starting Gun for EU-US Trade Talks,” IP/13/224, European Commission Press Release (March 12, 2013).
“Independent study outlines benefits of EU-US trade agreement,” MEMO/13/211, European Commission Memo (March 12, 2013).
James Kanter, “U.S. and Europe Seek Support for Trade Pact,” New York Times, March 12, 2013.
Browsing through the NY Times’ Automobiles section, a review of Tesla’s Model S 416 hp supercar caught my attention. Tesla has been very successful on the West Coast of the Unites States in implementing a network of charging stations for its attractive looking electric vehicles. Recently, Tesla has opened up its Supercharger stations on the East Coast along a stretch of the I-95 corridor between Washington and Boston. Given how well the system is working out West, this seemed like a logical next step for improving electric vehicle charging infrastructures.
The test did not go so well for NY Times writer John M. Broder. In the below freezing temperatures of an East Coast winter day, the lithium-ion battery powered vehicle did not reach its EPA rated 265 miles/per charge leaving the test driver no option but to turn off the heater and drive 10 mph under the speed limit. Later in the trip, the car needed the assistance of a tow truck to get to the next closest charging point.
The article was published on February 8th to almost immediate criticism and controversy. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, Tweeted that the article was a ‘Fake’ and accused the author of not charging the car to its max, taking a long detour and driving at high speed and vowing to publish the vehicle data logs of the journey (Tesla claims that it does not log data on its customers without their written permission but for all media test drives they turn on the feature).
Mr. Broder responded with an article rebutting the claims of the Tesla CEO. His “long detour” was apparently a brief stop in Manhattan that added 2 miles to his journey. The author admitted that he did not keep the partially-charged car plugged in overnight on his trip not realizing the effect that the cold weather would have on the battery. Mr. Broder wrote,
”This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it. Now that Tesla is striving to be a mass-market automaker, it cannot realistically expect all 20,000 buyers a year (the Model S sales goal) to be electric-car acolytes who will plug in at every Walmart stop.”
Regardless of the outcome of the data logs, what is clear is that this 416 hp supercar cannot be driven like a BMW M5 if you still expect to arrive at your destination in one go. It also puts the spotlight on the challenges that exist for lithium-ion batteries. Increasing their range per charge is an important issue that will help determine how successful the current generation of EVs will be at gaining a share of the automobile market. Another factor is their cost – much of which comes from the battery pack as the production process of lithium-ion batteries is still not completely automated or optimized for high quantities.
Original article from the NY Times: Click Here
Response from Mr. Broder: Click Here
We are also hosting a conference on Smart EV and HEV Battery Production from April 22-24, 2013.
Find out more information about the conference and access lots of free relevant content by following this link
Recently, one of my colleagues here at Automotive IQ laughed about the rather extravagant name used by the official dealer literature to describe the color of my car – Nautic Blue Pearl. In fact, dark blue probably would have sufficed. This exchange caused me to do a bit of research on naming conventions used by car companies for their color pallets.
It turns out that there is a very comprehensive book published, entitled: The Anthropology of Color. One of the contributors writes that based on a survey of Swedish newspaper advertisements and car manufacturer brochures, there were no less than 150 complex color names listed. That is a far cry from Henry Ford’s infamous quote that, “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it’ s black.”
Automotive painting has undoubtedly advanced in strides since the time of the Model T with the utilization of anti-reflective coatings, processes that improve paint adhesion, and even self-healing paints that use polymers activated by sunlight to repair scratches. But why is dark blue called Nautic Blue Pearl?
One explanation offered by The Anthropology of Color is color symbolism – the concept that people associate certain colors with status and mood. Therefore, colors with noble names such as Classic Green, Diplomat Blue, and Imperial Red imply status. Logically, this would imply that luxury car makers would have more detailed and elegant names for their paints. Historically, there is evidence that this was indeed the case though the concept is now shared by cars traditionally in non-luxury segments. There is no evidence that the status-filled paint color names have improved the actual brand status of less expensive cars.
Regardless of the semantics a brochure uses to name a car’s paint color, there are very real trends in car buyer preferences. Dupont tracks consumer color preferences with their yearly paint survey. Traditionally, during an economic recession, car buyers tend toward conservative colors such as black, white and silver. When times are more prosperous, yellows, oranges and reds make a comeback.
The following graphics are from the 2012 Survey:
Predictably, the conservative colors were at the top of the charts for 2012 in both Europe and North America. Interestingly, less conservative car colors had a much better showing in Russia than other parts of the world.
Interested in Automotive Paint Technology? Check out our Conference in Stuttgart, Germany between February 19 – 20, 2013. Among the many interesting topics, Mercedes will be presenting on Color Development at Mercedes Benz – in the past, in the present and in the future. Click here to learn more.
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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals
Automotive-IQ looks forward to a new year of news, blog posts and discussions in 2013.
Vehicle safety has come a long way since 1959. Nevertheless, that year was a major milestone in automotive history. In that year, the three-point seatbelt was improved upon by Nils Bohlin, a former SAAB aircraft engineer who spent his early career designing ejection seats (1). After Volvo CEO Gunnar Engelau lost a relative in a car crash, he hired Bohlin as Volvo’s first Chief Safety Engineer.
Contrary to popular belief, Volvo and Bohlin did not invent the first safety belt in a car. The first seat belts typically consisted of a belt strapped across the waist and two Americans, Roger Griswold and Hugh De Haven, patented the first three-point seatbelt in 1951 (2) though the buckle rested in the middle of the occupants abdomen causing severe internal injuries during high-speed collisions. Bohlin greatly improved upon the seat belt by moving the buckle to a safer location, anchoring the belt below the occupant’s waist and simplifying the process of using the seatbelt with its one-handed design. It has been estimated that Bohlin’s seat belt has saved a million lives in its roughly 50 year history. During that time, the standard car seat belt has remained fundamentally unchanged.
The same cannot be said for the automotive seat itself. It has undergone many changes in the past 50 years from the addition of headrests to aid in whiplash protection, lumbar support adjustment, built-in airbags to protect the occupant in a side-impact collision, to the materials used in the seat’s construction to reduce weight and increase driver comfort. A fatigued driver is not a safe driver.
Ford has recently taken the safety aspects of automotive seating a step further with its ECG seat for-in car heart monitoring. Drivers who suffer from heart disease have a 23 percent greater risk of being involved in an accident (3). Initial testing is very promising, showing a 95 percent accuracy during 98 percent of the time the driver spent in the seat. Some emergency medical services already have the capability to send data wirelessly from ambulance to hospital and it is possible that the car seat may soon be able to do the same. It’s an exciting innovation to look out for.
IQPC is hosting its 8th International Conference on Innovative Seating in Bonn, Germany from the 25th – 28th of February, 2013.
To learn more about Ford’s ECG Seat and for free access to a number of other interesting articles on automotive seating, visit our download center.
Recently, an article was published in the Art & Design section of the NY Times (full article here). The article discusses automotive lighting paying particular attention to the design elements evoked by lighting systems over the past century. A car’s headlamps can be one of the most dramatic visual cues on the front of a vehicle. They can set the tone and help to create a car model’s persona and character. The article mentions how design elements over the past century also reflected a particular era’s history from the straight lines representing machine age production lines to softer curves after the 2nd World War meant to calm emotions after such traumatic events.
The current design of headlamps is very futuristic thanks in no small part to the introduction of modern LEDs into vehicle lighting. A great example of this is the Audi R8 which was the first car to use full LED lamps. Light Emitting Diode technology is a particularly impressive innovation with regard to design. In an interview with Valeo’s Benoist Fleury (see below link), he explained that in addition to being significantly more efficient than traditional halogen lights, LED lighting allows for much more creative styling opportunities in the design of the lighting system. This includes the components as well as the actual beam produced. Their small size allows for a much greater range of configurations and car designers are taking advantage of that.
Automotive lighting systems also provide a functional benefit for every vehicle in terms of safety and here LEDs can also provide benefits. European regulation dictates that all new vehicles have daytime-running-lights (DRLs) installed and LEDs are significantly more energy efficient. They are also designed to last for the life of the car.
IQPC’s 13th International Conference Intelligent Automotive Lighting 2013 will take place from Monday, 28th to the 29th of January, 2013 with interactive workshops on the 30th. The conference will focus on developments in interior and exterior vehicle lighting including design, thermal management for LEDs and OLED technology.
Who will you meet by attending?
• Lighting component suppliers
• Automotive OEMs
• Lighting system suppliers
• Optical Systems
• Solid state lighting manufacturers
• OLED manufacturers
To find out more about the conference click here
Toyota recently unveiled a new concept car at CEATEC 2012, Japan’s largest consumer electronics show. The INSECT is a single passenger EV but might better be thought of as a very capable smartphone on wheels. The concept car facilitates and integrates very practical applications such as the ability to recommend a restaurant or turn on your home air conditioning system in anticipation of your arrival. By utilizing Microsoft’s Kinect technology, facial and body movements will prompt a greeting by flashing the front lights and opening the door as you approach. Current battery technology limits this car from moving beyond a concept, but it certainly provides a great starting point for discussion about the future of consumer electronics in vehicles.
Traditionally, consumers compare power, carrying capacity and fuel efficiency within a given price range. By creating this concept, Toyota may have recognized a consumer flashpoint. As people spend more time in their cars, their need to be connected while in their vehicles will grow and the weight placed on a car’s integration of mobile devices may significantly increase. In fact, the average British motorist now spends three full years of their life driving. That is an astounding amount of time spent behind the wheel.
By 2016, it is predicted that roughly 50 percent of new vehicles sold globally will be connected to the internet. There are of course a number of challenges to consider.
- Currently there is no single industry standard system for integrating mobile devices into a vehicle.
- Should manufacturers strive for internet in the car or car in the internet by integrating the car into the cloud?
- How can consumer electronics be incorporated ergonomically and without compromising driver safety?
Learn about these and other issues at the 6th International Conference on Consumer Electronics 4 Vehicles, 28-30 January in Stuttgart, Germany.
For more information about Toyota’s INSECT click here