Auto Electronics

Can Toyota Lead the Commercial Hybrid Truck Market?

Can Toyota lead the commercial hybrid truck market?

Having seen success for hybrid electric passenger vehicles in the consumer marketplace, carmakers are focusing on incorporating the technology into commercial trucks. Toward that goal, Toyota’s Hino Truck subsidiary will be the first to commercially offer an original production heavy-duty hybrid truck chassis in North America and Japan. But, new research from market research firm ABI Research questions whether being the first to market will necessarily bring Toyota long-term success.

Although hybrid electric passenger vehicles have gained momentum through increased fuel economy and good performance, hybrid commercial trucks won’t sell so much on that appeal as they will from a discernable improvement in the total cost of ownership.

A new report from Oyster Bay, NY-based ABI Research, “Commercial Hybrid Electric Vehicles,” finds that monetary savings through hybrid technology are a possibility, but would require a dramatic reduction of initial costs that can only be achieved through mass production. “Other truck makers will produce hybrid vehicles by using a conventional chassis that is altered after the fact to include hybrid technology,” says ABI Research analyst Dan Benjamin. “Just as in the consumer space, Toyota is jumping out ahead of the pack with a dedicated hybrid design for a commercial truck.”

Hino’s system is expected to be the least expensive hybrid truck available, which may make it the most attractive choice for the fleet buyer. Despite an early offering, the Hino hybrid won’t benefit from all the advantages Toyota has in the consumer space, because Hino does not enjoy the market presence in the commercial truck market that Toyota does with light vehicles. However, major market players like GM and Freightliner are not expected to have a production hybrid truck chassis available for several years. Companies such as Eaton, Azure Dynamics, and Pei/UQM have stepped in to fill the void by developing hybrids on top of other platforms. These solutions can be effective, but are more expensive due to lower volumes. For more information, visit www.abiresearch.com.

Intelligent fastening goes global

Textron Fastening Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Textron Inc. has signed a technology and partnership agreement with Telezygology Inc. (TZ), a wholly owned subsidiary of TZ Ltd. for exclusive global rights to develop, commercialize and manufacture products using proprietary intelligent fastening technology developed by TZ. Textron Fastening Systems will market the intelligent fastening systems and products under the Intevia™ brand name. Equipped with embedded microprocessors remotely controlled by intelligent tools, Intevia™ intelligent fasteners represent an all-new approach to assembly technology. Customized software systems can control, manage, diagnose, and document each fastener process and total lifecycles.

“Intevia™ intelligent fastening represents the future of fastening, and is the centerpiece of a series of new value-added systems and technologies we are introducing to change the way products are assembled, maintained, serviced and recycled,” said Rick Clayton, president of Textron Fastening Systems. “We expect more than a quarter of future Textron Fastening Systems revenues to be generated by Intevia™ and the other new products and technologies being launched.” Clayton added. “Our testing and validation of Intevia™ systems for global aerospace and security markets are nearing completion. We are on target to announce these applications during 2005, and follow them with applications in defense and other markets.”

Textron Fastening Systems and TZ began working together 15 months ago to develop automotive and aerospace applications for intelligent fastening. Their new contract gives Textron Fastening Systems exclusive rights to market Intevia™ in all global markets. Textron Fastening Systems is paying TZ an up-front $10 million license fee, and additionally will compensate TZ through royalties derived from sales of Intevia™ products. In addition, TZ has offered Textron Fastening Systems Inc. an option to purchase up to 20% of TZ shares, or under certain circumstances the shares of TZ affiliates, under terms and conditions to be agreed upon. For more information, visit www.textronfasteningsystems.com.

Mobile license plate reading technology granted U.S. patent

The United States Patent office has issued AutoVu Technologies Patent RE38,626 for a variety of applications based on the use of license plate reading (LPR) technology to monitor, locate or identify vehicles for parking and law enforcement purposes. Montreal, Quebec, Canada-based AutoVu is the first company to develop and deploy mobile LPR systems in North America. AutoVu’s AutoFind mobile LPR system is becoming an industry standard for parking enforcement and law enforcement.

Law enforcement agencies in several Canadian and U.S. cities are using AutoVu’s AutoFind mobile LPR system to find stolen vehicles. The results are impressive. Since January 2003, more than 2,000 stolen vehicles worth more than $10 million have been recovered providing positive justification for the implementation of this new technology, according to Auto Vu. Consequently, the supplier’s list of parking enforcement clients continues to grow rapidly.

“This patent represents an important milestone in our company’s efforts to further strengthen and reinforce our leadership position as the primary North American provider of innovative license plate recognition solutions for the parking, security and law enforcement markets,” said company CEO Pierre Hubert. For more information, visit www.autovu.com.

Next-generation forewarn back-up

At the recent 2005 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Delphi Corp., demonstrated its next-generation forewarn back-up aid system, a new and integrated system featuring radar technology that extends sensing range and resistance to interference from rain, snow, dirt, mud and noise.

Improvements over the first-generation system include an integrated dual radar receiver and a visual range indicator. The dual radar design extends the sensing range to 16 feet, while broadening the critical coverage areas immediately behind the corners of the vehicle. This improvement enables Forewarn to be three times more responsive than conventional offerings. “We believe that by offering Forewarn back-up aid system direct to the retail market, we give today’s consumers a safety solution at an affordable price,” said Joseph A. Damato, director of consumer electronics, Delphi Product & Service Solutions.

The system easily mounts to a two-inch trailer hitch, which comes as standard equipment on many SUVs, pick-ups and recreational vehicles. The visual indicator can be mounted in the rear of the vehicle and used in concert with the system’s audible alerts to further assist the driver. Designed with a stylish cover, Delphi’s next-generation back-up system can be self-installed, requiring no modification on the bumper or chassis of the vehicle. The Delphi next-generation Forewarn Back-Up Aid will be available at select national retailers this year at a retail price of $349. For more information, visit www.delphi.com.

DoE completes testing of four 2005 NEV models from GEM

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), through its advanced vehicle testing activity, has completed baseline performance testing of four 2005 Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) models from Global Electric Motorcars, LLC (GEM), a DaimlerChrysler Co.

The baseline performance testing included range, acceleration, top speed, braking, handling, gradeability and charging efficiency tests. The range test results for the GEMs varied from 37 miles per charge to 44 miles per charge (actual range may differ depending upon road and weather conditions). The payloads ranged from 526 pounds to 886 pounds per vehicle. Each vehicle required less than seven hours to fully charge using a household outlet. Each GEM went a distance of between 5.4 and 5.9 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which means that the fuel costs were less than two cents per mile, assuming 10 cents per kWh. Standard features on the 2005 GEMs included front-wheel drive, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, regenerative braking, three-point safety belts and onboard battery chargers.

These elements of the Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity are managed for the DoE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Baseline performance testing fact sheets for the 2005 GEMs, as well as the 10 other NEVs previously tested, can be found at http://avt.inel.gov/nev.html. Testing specifications and procedures also can be found at this location.

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