Question of the Month April 2001

Will we see significant use of 42-volt vehicle systems in the next:

3 years - 40%
5 years - 40%
7 years - 20%

Time for 42-volts

More and more items require electricity to operate. This will increase the need of a 42-volt vehicle system. Can you still remember the magneto, then the 6-volt? Next the 12-volt, then two batteries? Yes, now the 42-volt.
Jack L. McCallister
Honda of America Mfg. Inc.
Hilliard, OH

What I missed several months ago when the 42-volt system was first mentioned was: Why call a 36-volt battery (18 2-volt cells) a 42-volt system? At 2.17 to 2.19 volts per cell, a fully charged 36-volt battery would have a terminal voltage of 39.06 to 39.42 volts.

The question shouldn't be when, it should be why not sooner?
Edward Goeller
Poughkeepsie, NY

Editor's note: We went to an expert for this one, Ed. Joe Fadool, director of Electrical and Electronic Distribution Systems for Siemens Automotive, tells us that what the layman calls a “12-volt” system is 14 volts — 12 from the battery and 1.5 to 1.8 volts from the alternator when the engine is running. That gets rounded to 14 volts. Triple that, and you get 42 volts; the battery puts out 36 volts and the alternator for the system produces another 4.5 to 6.5 volts. That makes for a system total of about 42.

Bad drivers

You've absolutely hit the nail on the head with your editorial (see Editorial, “Bad Drivers, Good Credibility,” WAW — April ’01, p. 9). Every day I drive to and from work I am amazed at the incompetence in driving skills on the road in the U.S. U.S. drivers are truly incompetent. With all the gadgets and distractions, it's no wonder someone driving an SUV at 85-95 mph down the highway, while they are staring at their kids in their flip down mirror, while talking on a cell phone, while trying to dial in their position on their GPS navigation system, while trying to find where to put his coffee in the cup holder, can lose control of any vehicle should a tire go down.
Steve Voll
Buyer — Capital Equipment & Tooling
Johnson Controls Inc.
Holland, MI

I agree wholeheartedly with your editorial. My one comment on that last sentence is the old saying that nothing can be made idiot-proof because they just keep making better idiots.

Keep up the good work.
Jonathan D. Hassert
Customer Liaison Engineer
BorgWarner Transmission Systems
Troy, MI

The way we instruct our young drivers does nothing to develop driving skill. Indeed, we instill bad habits that can create catastrophic results during panic conditions. I developed my driving skills through SCCA drivers school. I truly feel we should mandate similar training for all new drivers. Maybe not in the total scope, but enough to instill good driving skill. I am noticing a trend within the country of blatantly ignoring traffic laws. People who deliberately run traffic lights, stop signs, passing in no passing zones. All the safety devices in the world will not save us from this unlawful behavior.
Charles E. Heckert
Salem, IN

Don't let 'em off that easy

One detail (that I know of) was omitted from Car and Driver's test that might have a huge impact on the results. They simulated a rapid tire deflation during their test. However, in the real world, not only is the tire deflating but the field is seeing tread separation as well. What impact does a loose tire tread flapping around in the wheel well (and possibly other places) have on vehicle stability. Your comments?
Douglas M. Linett
Engineering
Caterpillar

Editor Drew Winter responds: It is my opinion that if separated tire treads bunched up in the wheel well, or somehow wrapped themselves around the axle in a way that would stop or slow tire rotation, there would be evidence of that after the crash (big scuff marks, etc.). And even if that is true, I think the liability still remains with Firestone, which clearly seems guilty of manufacturing defective tires — not the design of the Ford Explorer. What's more, 80% of those who died in these crashes were not wearing seatbelts. To me, that all points to bad tires and bad driving, not a defective SUV design.

Thanks for bringing truth back into journalism in your article “Bad Drivers, Good Credibility.”
John Mitchener
Delphi Mechatronic Systems

I was reading your editorial on SUV rollovers. I agree that SUVs are not excessively dangerous. But I noticed an interesting fact about your article. There is an account of a rear tire blowout on a Cherokee. No front tires! This omission is puzzling because one assumes that heavily loaded front tires are most likely to blow. Where did the front tires go? Inquiring minds want to know! Methinks thou doth protest too much.
Robert Erck
Engineer
Darien, IL

Drew Winter responds: The largest percentage of fatal Firestone/Explorer rollovers involved the rear driver-side tire, that's why Car and Driver chose to simulate the failure of that tire during its tests. The next highest percentage of crashes involved the passenger-side rear tire. A very small percentage of the fatal rollovers involved front tire failures, hence the focus on rear tires.

A Saturn defender

David C. Smith states “the Saturn S sedan has barely changed after 10 years in showrooms.” (see WAW — April ’01, p. 60). I've never owned a Saturn, yet even I know that the car's exterior was totally restyled for 1996 and was substantially freshened again just a couple of years ago. The SL series also happens to be on its third interior design. Does the little car need to sport a JATO pack to be considered changed, David?
Dean Pepperine
Delphi Automotive Systems

Editor's note: Change is in the eye of the beholder, Dean. And most observers would argue that changes in the “S” have been very much cosmetic. Saturn first took that clean sheet of paper for the “S” and after a decade has cast the resulting platform in stone.

Child seat makers need to catch up

I believe the article “Safety Ignored” (see WAW — April ’01, p.35) was a bit misdirected. While it may be true that there is a lack of education regarding the LATCH safety system, it seems much of the ignorance falls on the part of child-seat manufacturers, not parents.

As a mother to be, I paid attention to the details of my Ford Focus, including the LATCH system. Now the search is on for a child seat that is equipped with the same features. According to the NHTSA, there are only two child seats available for use with the LATCH system, (only two!) and it is no surprise that they are priced higher than the standard seat, or travel system.

If parents are to start using this safety feature, the child seat manufacturers are going to have to catch up to the automakers, and Tom Murphy needs to ask, “Safety ignored by whom?”
Alexandra Mackin
Quality Manager
Antaya Technologies Corp.

Kilowatt electric had Eureka vacuum roots

Re: Technology Wrap-up (see WAW — April ’01, p.48). In 1960 and 1961 the Henney Kilowatt car was manufactured by The Eureka Co. in Bloomington, IL. Today Eureka is a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, but at that time the company had a widely diversified product line.

Eureka had recently merged with the National Union Electric Co., and the Henney Kilowatt car project came about because the company president who had come from National Union Electric had a strong relationship with the electricity industry and an interest in the development of battery-powered vehicles. The cars were primarily used as promotional tools for power companies. Many sat in storage for a number of years, and they never did take off with consumers at that time. The technology was quite advanced, and the concept was ahead of its time. Perhaps the time has finally come for the Henney Kilowatt car to gain respect and sales.
Kathryn Luedke
Public Relations Director
The Eureka Co.
Bloomington, IL

Question of the Month

June 2001

Will Covisint ultimately be successful as a for-profit company?
Yes No

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