Juice on demand

An automotive technology that prioritises and regulates the power supply to a car’s electrical systems could ease the growing burden on the beleaguered battery.

Developed by researchers at Siemens, the power trader system distributes available electric power depending on the driving conditions at any given moment. For instance, when a driver is overtaking another vehicle the electrically powered turbocharger and other drive components will be switched on, while the seat-heating system will briefly be turned down until sufficient electric power is once again available.

Enno Pflug, a spokesman for the company’s automotive arm, Siemens VDO, said the system has been developed in response to a burgeoning automotive energy crisis, as customer demands for more advanced electronics systems coupled with a growth in short, energy-sapping journeys are placing increasing strain on vehicle batteries.

Over the past 30 years electric power requirements have nearly quadrupled and Siemens estimates that by 2005 an average vehicle’s power demand will rise to around 2.5kW. And this spiralling requirement isn’t simply the result of demand for more comfort features. Critical systems such as fuel-injection devices, power steering and stability control also place huge burdens on the power supply.

Pflug claimed that the system will be particularly beneficial in cold weather when the battery is put under great strain. He said that by intelligently managing power the battery will always receive enough charging current to start the car. Pflug said that the technology is likely to appear on vehicles in two years’ time.

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