Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2002   by Auto Service World

Over the Counter – Sept 2002: 42-Volt Systems Driven By Need for In-Car Technology, Says Study

The emerging market for 42-volt automotive electrical systems stands poised for rapid growth, driven by the need for more sophisticated technology than that used in currently prevalent 14-volt systems, according to analysis by research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The 42-volt electrical systems offer significant benefits such as additional onboard electrical applications, enhanced safety through better vehicle handling, improved fuel economy, reduced emissions, and environmental friendliness.

These features make them attractive to auto manufacturers, as they strive to deliver greater comfort and convenience to consumers. Already, the limits of current 14-volt electrical systems have been tested, as accessory content on vehicles has increased. Many technologies waiting in the wings, such as drive-by-wire and brake-by-wire, require higher voltage systems to operate.

“Adoption of the 42-volt standard will unleash changes that will impact vehicles over many years as automakers realize more and more possibilities,” says Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst Joerg Dittmer. “This developing market presents several opportunities for both new as well as established participants.”

There will be a rising demand for electronic products that can perform novel functions, such as electronic control modules for managing batteries. Since there are no existing manufacturers for such systems, new companies may be able to enter the market more easily than if there were established competitors.

“All major suppliers of original-equipment starters, alternators, and batteries are developing products for 42-volt vehicles because they cannot afford to be left behind when this technology catches on,” says Dittmer. “Additionally, suppliers of electronic equipment, power steering systems, brake systems, wire harnesses, connectors, and many other components are working to meet the challenges ahead.”

A study released late last year revealed similar results. According to “Emerging Developments In Automotive 42-Volt Systems,” from BRG Townsend, Inc, the higher voltage systems will be found on 10 million to 13 million vehicles globally within the next ten years.

“The introduction of vehicles that incorporate 42-volts and other high voltage systems will occur at differing rates depending on geographic region,” said Frank May, director – Automotive Practice, BRG Townsend. “In one country the driver may be fuel consumption. In another, it may be increasing concern for controlling emissions. In yet another market, demand for additional ‘creature comforts’ may provide the primary motivation for change.”

The need to initially retain two electrical systems–14-volt and 42-volt–will pose a challenge, as this is an expensive proposition, according to Frost & Sullivan. To overcome this and other unresolved technical difficulties, manufacturers must convince automakers of the potential benefits of 42-volt systems and to invest substantially in research and development of new technology, which will pave the way for the transition to the 42-volt standard.

“Benefits such as better fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions are likely to cause automakers to spread 42-volt technology across their vehicle lines more quickly, especially once costs of components begin to come down,” adds Dittmer.

The analysis from Frost & Sullivan is contained in its just-published “Impact of 42-Volt Electrical Systems on North American Automobiles” report that discusses the likely impact of a transition to higher-voltage systems on alternators, starters, batteries, and electronics.

Original-equipment demand for batteries, for example, is projected to rise from 15.3 million in 2002 to 18.1 million in 2008, as vehicles start carrying two batteries. Battery revenues should grow even more strongly because most of the extra demand will be for 36-volt batteries, which are more expensive.

This has not gone unnoticed by battery manufacturers, which are all involved in developing systems. The recently announced acquisition of the Varta European battery business by Johnson Controls pegged Varta’s research and development efforts in the development of batteries for emerging higher energy, higher power and longer life automotive applications such as dual battery systems, 42-volt electrical systems and battery solutions for hybrid vehicles, as important reasons for the acquisition.

NAPA Jobber Attracts Attention to Grand Opening

Dale Green was apprehensive about the grand opening of his NAPA store in Dryden, Ont. He needn’t have been.

As it turns out, his advance planning that included arranging to have the NAPA CASCAR of Robin Buck on display, attracted hundreds of visitors to his store, and generated a good deal of coverage in the local newspaper, the Dryden Observer, including one story on the front page of the Sports & Recreation section and another in the Business section.

The attention attracted by the #15 CASCAR prompted Green to exclaim,”This has become a racing town!” Hundreds of interested onlookers were in attendance and Brandon Alexander, a crew member who also takes care of the NAPA show car, reportedly signed 750 autographs for enthusiastic children, and was able to regale the fans with stories of the team’s victory at the Vancouver Molson Indy.

According to staff at the store, the event was reportedly one of the most successful of its kind in the community. “Our chamber of commerce said that they hadn’t seen anyone have so many people stay around before,” says Lorraine Malyk, store manager.

The event included a ribbon cutting by the mayor and a fundraising barbecue for the local hospital.

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