To Power the Future, Carmakers Flip on 48-Volt Systems

from NYTs

While automakers sketch out a world of sleek and silent electric cars or even self-driving pods that are more den than dragster, the all-electric future is further off than it may appear.

Car companies, starting with Volvo last summer, have laid out plans to electrify entire lineups of vehicles. But the fine print makes it clear that the coming decade and beyond will focus not just on massive battery packs powering electric motors, but also on adding a little extra juice to the venerable internal combustion engine.

Increasingly, that juice will arrive in the form of new electrical systems built to a 48-volt standard, instead of the 12-volt systems that have dominated since the 1950s. Simpler than Prius-type drivetrains and less expensive than Tesla-scale battery power, the new electrical architecture both satisfies the demands of cars made more power hungry by their gadget load and enables the use of lower-cost hybrid drive systems.

Earlier proposals to take cars to a 42-volt standard fizzled for cost reasons, but recent regulatory developments and the hardware that will one day make autonomous cars feasible have reignited the urgency.

Besides the drop in battery prices and control electronics, other factors have made 48-volt technology worth re-examining, said Jürgen Wiesenberger, director of the hybrid electrical vehicles unit at Continental North America. “The market was not ready for them in the past because of cost, but the 2013 fuel price spike changed that,” he said.

In limited ways, 48-volt systems have already found their way into vehicles, including the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga S.U.V.s., where they operate the antiroll bars that keep the body level when cornering hard.

More here.

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One Comment

  1. For years, people have pushed the limits of how fast an automobile can travel. Thanks to the car companies like Volvo, that standard has now reached a new level. They are working hard to power their new vehicles with 48-volt electrical systems. This may seem a bit excessive considering the standard for most cars is 12, but companies who want to make an impact on market will often push the limits of what can be done with technology. In today’s fast paced world, many critics will argue that faster cars mean excessive spending on gas and more accidents when on the road. It all depends on who’s driving and what the consumer wants when purchasing a new car. Given the alternatives like electric cars and hybrid vehicles, Volvo most likely wants to stand out in a crowd of Toyotas and Volkswagens to give drivers a new and thrilling experience. The company has aimed to provide more 48-volt cars by 2025, allowing drivers to choose which vehicle they prefer to drive. Buying a new car is hard enough, now with engines twice as fast as modern automobiles, consumers may have trouble making a selection. Fortunately, Volvo and other companies like Porsche will most likely continue to make other car models as well, so as to not overflood the market. These cars may cost more money to make, but it’s important for companies such as Fiat and Audi to show people that they are willing to put these new systems in their newest and sleekest car models. Car companies continue to find new ways to change the interior of their vehicles to give consumers something they would be willing to pay more money for. However, there is a difference between what cars need and what companies think they need. Most people are probably all for 48-volt system cars with their high speeds and sleek exterior. Other consumers may require more information before buying such a machine. As long as they come with more safety features, I’m sure these new rides will be able to put more confident drivers on the road, and make manufacturers more money as well. Some people will say the car of the future will be able to fly in the air and run on water instead of gasoline. They may get to that level someday, but we should trust car makers right now to give us a new powerful engine that will take us to our locations faster than we ever thought before. Time after time, we allow ourselves to think the lastest new technology will always remain new and relevant. A fast new car engine can be upgraded and modified as soon as the last one comes out. While that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t buy these cars, it means that 48-volt electrical systems may soon be traded out for 62 or 75-volt systems someday. There’s no limit to what companies like Volvo and Audi can put into their cars, it’s just a matter of anticipating what may be next in the great history of the automobile.

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