Emerging Automotive Technology

Our houses are full of Japanese electronics. For some, Japanese vehicles occupy the garage.
The 39th Tokyo Auto Show was held October 21 through November 6. The 430,000 square-foot public event is held every other year and about 1.5 million visitors pass through the turnstiles. We had the chance to visit the show this year, themed “Driving Tomorrow.”

The show, for passenger cars and motorcycles, presented current vehicles as well as technologies and concept vehicles for our future. With no surprise, many of the technologies showed forward thinking to advanced pollution control and more efficient vehicle operation. There were 79 world premiers of new technology.

BMW premiered its Active Hybrid Technology Concept on an X3 SUV. The X3 Efficient Dynamics uses what it calls High Precision Injection, which is a high-pressure, direct injection system on a four-stroke gasoline engine. It is anticipated that High Precision Injection will produce 10 to 15 percent improved in fuel economy.

Nose job
Ford’s Explorer SUV has an updated appearance for 2006. The new front end has an all-new, bold front clip, a new hood, more pronounced wheel lips and strong geometric graphics in the lamps. The redesign stemmed from wanting the Explorer to have a stronger tie to its F-series truck platform to display the Explorer’s truck-like roots.

Nissan CVT
While CVTs have been the transmission of choice on sleds since the pioneering days, automotive companies are testing and using the benefits. Ford and Honda are two manufacturers that use CVT transmissions in their automobiles. This Nissan 3.5 liter V6 cutaway is mated to the company’s version of a CVT. This technology will likely come soon from the manufacturer, and among its claims are “increased efficiency and its simple design [that] allows its installment in a whole range of settings.” There was no mention of a clutch kit to pep it up, but we’ll leave that to the aftermarket.

Jeep’s new-for-2006 Commander was on display at the Tokyo show. The three-seat, seven-passenger SUV is sure to find a home at some snowmobiler’s pads. It’s available with the company’s 5.7 liter Hemi V8.

It’s common knowledge the Arctic Cat T660 four-stroke snowmobile engine has automotive roots. How many of us have a visual picture of where that engine is used? Here’s one. This Suzuki Wagon R microcar uses the same 658cc, 54 hp engine as many sleds in the Arctic Cat lineup.

The Michelin “Tweel” takes run-flat tires to the next level. How about no air at all? This truck-sized tire concept is a tire/wheel combination with flexible spokes that can absorb road imperfections, and the company claims it can tune sidewall stiffness. Flats are impossible.

spin less mass
With the emphasis on removing rotating mass, how about titanium wheels for the tow rig? While pricey, they are in production and shave several pounds from the corners of a vehicle resulting in more power to the ground.
This concept SUV was found — of all places — in the Hyundai booth. The company is working on an efficient V8 engine. Will it be the first Korean company with a legitimate tow vehicle?

Another display showed the components of a hydrogen fuel cell driveline. This is one technology that many industry experts say is just a matter of time before it becomes widespread. Hydrogen fuel stations are a critical step in infrastructure prior to widespread use of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

What’s a car show without a few exotics? There’s no hitch on this baby. The Lamborghini Gallergo produces 500 hp at 7,800 rpm from its four-valve V-10 engine. It’s built for speed, and is capable of more than 190 mph. The other vehicle was a world premier for the Mitsuoko Motors Company. Its Orochi Nude-Top Roadster is very, very white.

Tranny tech
Six-speed automatic transmissions are coming on strong. The German company, ZF Getriebe, claims its myTronic6 transmission is the world’s first 6-speed automatic. Using the Adaptive Shift Strategy, the transmission uses electronic sensors monitoring the driving situation, driver’s inputs and operating conditions to adjust shifting. Personal driving styles translate to personal shifting characteristics. Through its six different gear ratios, the company claims its transmission decreases fuel consumption by 5 to 7 percent.

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