Chinese company BYD (Build Your own Dreams) will begin assembling electric buses "in the coming months" at a vacated recreational-vehicle assembly plant formerly occupied by Rexhall Industries in Lancaster, CA. The company also will manufacture lithium-iron-phosphate batteries at a separate plant in Lancaster, which is part of Los Angeles County. The plants will be the BYD's first in the U.S. The company's U.S. headquarters is in the city of Los Angeles. In April, the Long Beach Transit Authority awarded a $12.1 million contract to BYD for 10 electric buses. The company says its electric buses have a range of more than 155 mi (250 km) on a single charge.
NHTSA (U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) is recommending that in designing their vehicles, automakers disable manual text entry for text messaging and Internet browsing if the vehicle is not stopped and in park. That is just one disabling recommendation listed by the agency in voluntary guidelines it issued April 23. Also recommended to be disabled are video-based entertainment and communications such as video-phoning or video-conferencing, as well as display of certain types of text including text messages, webpages, and social-media content. The guidelines include recommendations to limit the time a driver must take his eyes off the road to perform any task to 2 s at a time and 12 s total. Those and other recommendations are consistent with the findings of a new NHTSA study, "The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk," including the fact that visual-manual tasks associated with handheld phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
TRW has launched its first integrated remote keyless entry (RKE) and direct tire-pressure-monitoring system (TPMS) with a major Japanese vehicle manufacturer. "Integrating RKE and TPMS can offer enhanced value and performance," said Ken Kaiser, Vice President, Global Electronics Engineering, TRW. "By eliminating the need for separate receivers for the two systems, we can maintain performance characteristics, use less space, reduce system weight and wiring complexity, and ultimately lower material and assembly costs." The system is also leading the industry in reducing risks associated with RF interference, the company says, by using multiple frequencies. This technology change is transparent to vehicle owners as there is no discernible change to the RKE key fob layout or performance. The transmitted commands are received by a single smart receiver/ECU that processes information from the RKE fobs and the temperature and pressure signals sent from the transmitters located in the TPMS sensor units in each tire.
Scania and Siemens are teaming to develop hybrid trucks that draw electrical current conductively from overhead wires or inductively from energy-transmitting devices embedded in the road. “Full-scale demonstration of electrified road sections can quickly become a reality through this partnership,” Henrik Henriksson, Executive Vice President and head of Scania’s Sales and Marketing, said in a March 11 press release that contained few technical details. In 2012, the two companies displayed a mockup of a truck fitted with a catenary system like those used on some trams and trains. Siemens has been studying catenary technology as part of its eHighway concept, which it says involves three core components: diesel-electric hybrid technology, power supply via catenary lines and regenerative braking, and intelligently controllable pantographs for energy transmission.
Responding to what it called an erroneous report, Johnson Controls said March 6 that it is exploring the possible sale of its automotive electronics business, but not its automotive interiors business. The company also said it has retained JPMorgan to explore the possible sale, adding in its very short statement that "no other details are available at this time." The Johnson Controls website says the company "has more than 1000 engineers, electronics specialists, and designers at seven research and development centers in Europe, North America, and Asia who develop innovative electronics solutions for driver information, infotainment, connectivity, body electronics, and HomeLink."
Johnson Controls' Mobile Device Gateway allows additional consumer electronics devices—including MP3 music players, Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, personal navigation systems, and other products—to connect to the vehicle's electrical system through Bluetooth technology, USB, and serial-connection ports.
General Motors on Feb. 25 announced a global strategy that to embed 4G LTE mobile broadband into its models to improve enhance vehicle connectivity. The first GM cars, trucks, and crossovers to get 4G LTE will be most 2015 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac models available in 2014 in the U.S. and Canada. Services will be delivered through AT&T. GM will announce more carrier and supplier relationships in coming months to expand 4G LTE capabilities in markets around the globe. It says 4G LTE has mobile data speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G technologies. It also offers increased responsiveness and the ability to support simultaneous voice and data connections. Expected benefits for GM customers could include in-vehicle Wi-Fi hot spots, new infotainment options such as streaming video entertainment in the back seat, real-time updates, and faster application downloads. These enhancements build on OnStar’s existing portfolio of built-in connected services. Customers will not be required to have a smartphone to use connected services.
SMILE FC System Corp. (“SMILE FC”), a joint venture between U.K.-based Intelligent Energy and Suzuki Motor Corp. has established a ready-to-scale production plant for its fuel-cell systems in Yokohama, Japan. The manufacturing center will be scaled up to supply fuel-cell stacks for integration with as-yet unnamed Suzuki vehicles. No information was available from Suzuki on its fuel-cell-vehicle plans, but an Intelligent Energy spokesman told AEI that work to date has focused on two-wheelers.The new production line marks the successful transfer of proven semi-automated production technology, developed and utilized by Intelligent Energy. Expected are reduced manufacturing and assembly costs, as well as improved cycle times and enhanced product quality. SMILE FC was created in February 2012 to develop and manufacture air-cooled fuel cell systems for a range of industry sectors including automotive. The joint venture provides Suzuki with access to Intelligent Energy’s air-cooled fuel-cell technology through partnering and licensing.
McLaren Automotive's new P1 plug-in hybrid supercar, to be unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, will be propelled by a "substantially revised" 3.8-L twin-turbo V8 gasoline engine coupled to an electric motor—a powertrain combination generating a claimed 916 PS (903 hp) and 900 N·m (664 lb·ft). Formula One-derived DRS (drag reduction system) and IPAS (instant power assist system) technologies offer an increase in straight-line speed and instant power boost. The V8 is an updated version of the company's M838T unit, with optimized cooling and durability under the higher loads. It generates a claimed 737 PS (727 hp) at 7500 rpm and 720 N·m (531 lb·ft) from 4000 rpm. The unique cylinder block casting incorporates the electric motor. All drive is channelled through the dual-clutch seven-speed gearbox to the rear wheels. In developing the IPAS technology for the P1, engineers prioritized power delivery over energy storage. This is achieved via a lightweight (212 lb/96 kg) battery pack offering what McLaren claims is greater power density than any other automotive battery pack on sale today. The pack's sophisticated thermal management system is flow-balanced, so that each individual cell is cooled to precisely the same temperature, says the company.
With an initial focus on autonomous driving and connected cars, the Renault-Nissan Alliance on Feb. 18 celebrated the official opening of a Silicon Valley advanced research center. Located in Sunnyvale, CA, the NRC-SV is part of Nissan's global strategy to expand and localize its R&D function in strategic markets. The center will be given responsibility for selected roles in collaboration with Nissan Research Center in Japan. In addition to autonomous-driving and connected-car technologies, NRC-SV will conduct research in the human-machine interface as it relates to the two main technologies. Planning and advanced development of connected vehicle services are future areas of research at the center. In 2011, engineers from Nissan and Renault began work at a comparatively small office in nearby Mountain View, and will move to the larger Sunnyvale lab.
The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and two major automaker lobbying groups were among the entities co-signing in a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission urging it to protect the 5.9-GHz radio band for use with connected-vehicle technologies including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) systems. The FCC had allocated the band exclusively for that purpose, but is now entertaining the idea of opening it to unlicensed Wi-Fi-based devices also. The commission is scheduled to discuss a proposal to that effect at its Feb. 20 meeting. The letter by ITS America, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers, and others asks that action by the FCC in this regard be held off until the U.S.'s NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) completes its study of V2V and V2I technologies using the 5.9-GHz band. The auto safety agency is putting those technologies to test in what it calls the largest-ever on-road demonstration project and, depending on the test results, might call for permanent reservation of the 5.9-GHz band. That project began last year on roads and highways in the Ann Arbor, MI, area and involves about 3000 specially equipped cars, trucks, and buses operated by volunteer participants. To read an AEI article on that project, click here.