With the much-anticipated 42-volt architecture fast approaching, companies such as LEM U.S.A. Inc. are entering the automotive market with smaller, more cost-effective sensors that are able to support higher voltage systems.

The supplier says it has been providing sensors for the industrial automation, traction, power conversion, welding, robotics computers and telecommunications markets for the past 20 years. Now, LEM has developed a new current transducer that can be used in automotive electric power steering applications.

Previous generation sensors, LEM says, were at least 10 times bigger than the sensor just recently developed. And, says Eric Wentz, senior vice president and general manager, previous sensors typically cost about $15 per unit, or about six times more, than the new versions. Much too expensive, Mr. Wentz says, for acceptable mass production in the future.

LEM says it has already secured "major contracts" with several major players in the North American and European markets. Mr. Wentz says the sensors will begin to be incorporated into '03 model year platforms. At that time, the supplier plans to produce roughly 2 million sensors per year. Mr. Wentz says LEM is unique because it is one of the few, if only, suppliers producing fully automated sensors at its manufacturing facility in Geneva, Switzerland.

LEM began to provide high and low current sensors for motor control and for battery and power control in vehicles in the early 1990's. LEM also supplies current probes for factory test and service diagnostic systems and torque measurement systems for all conventional, electric and hybrid vehicles.