Mazda i-ELOOP regenerative braking system. Click image to enlarge
By Jim Kerr
The pace of change in automotive technology seems to be increasing every year. New materials, manufacturing processes and increased computer processing speeds help this to happen. Concepts or ideas that wouldn’t have worked 30 years ago are now possible. Here are a couple of them.
Mazda has introduced a new i-ELOOP regenerative braking system that will begin to appear on their vehicles in 2012. This system uses the energy of the vehicle as it is slowing to store electricity, which is then used to power electrical components such as climate control and audio systems. Improvements of up to 10 per cent in fuel economy can be achieved in real world stop and go driving.
This may not sound like new technology – it is basically what hybrid vehicles are doing today, but Mazda’s i-ELOOP does this in a cheaper and more compact method. A unique part of the i-ELOOP design is its use of a capacitor instead of a battery. A capacitor is an electrical storage device that can be charged and discharged very rapidly. Capacitors are already used in car electrical systems to dampen electrical surges or prevent electrical interference on wiring. The i-ELOOP capacitors have been specifically designed for vehicle use and can be fully charged in seconds.
Another advantage of the i-ELOOP system is that it doesn’t use a large electric motor and heavy battery. Instead, the system has a new 12-25 variable voltage alternator. As soon as the vehicle begins to decelerate, the alternator generates up to 25 volts to rapidly charge the capacitor. This electrical energy is then fed to a DC to DC converter that drops the voltage back down to 12 volts before using to operate vehicle electronics.
Bridgestone has announced a new concept tire that runs without air. This isn’t a run-flat tire that uses heavy sidewall construction to support the vehicle when it loses air, nor is it a solid rubber tire such as you might find on a fork lift. Bridgestone’s Non-Pneumatic (airless) tire has a unique structure of spokes inside the tire that is made of reusable thermoplastic resin. The spoke structure can flex as the tire rolls to give a quality ride yet is strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle as it drives.
This combination of a rubber tread with a thermoplastic inner structure meets Bridgestone’s goals of building a tire that is practical for the mass market and is environmentally friendly. Because it never needs air, you will always have your tire “inflated” correctly and this improves fuel economy. The worry of flat tires is eliminated too, and you don’t need a spare tire. Another big benefit is that the tire is 100 per cent completely recyclable. The thermoplastic inner structure can be reheated and moulded into new shapes. Your used tires could come back again as new tires on another vehicle. While these tires are not in production, it does give us a glimpse at what the future can hold for us.
Quaker State has introduced a new oil – Quaker State Defy – designed for older high-performance engines with flat tappet camshafts. Since 2001, zinc, an anti-scuff additive has been reduced in motor oils to reduce clogging of catalytic converters and oxygen sensors. Oils with reduced zinc content are fine for modern low friction engine designs but older performance engines with high valve spring pressures and flat tappet camshafts were experiencing increased wear. The new Defy oil has a high level of ZDDP, an anti-wear additive with a proprietary “zinc booster” that helps control both wear and oxidation. New oils have low viscosity to help reduce internal engine friction and improve fuel economy. However, it is difficult to get low viscosity when zinc is added to the mix. The ZDDP additive does allow both lower viscosity while increasing anti-scuff properties. Quaker State claims the oil helps “stop wear in its tracks – preventing up to 98 per cent of future wear”. Classic car owners now have an oil designed to meet their needs.