PHOTO CAPTION: Buick Lacrosse with e-assist mild hybrid system.

48V Mild Hybrids May Be Best Path Forward to Meet Emissions Goals

Offering 48V hybrid systems across a manufacturer's entire product line may be the most practical and affordable way to meet gov't emission standards.

Published: 10-Dec-2013

Mild hybrids may be the only viable pathway for meeting government emission goals, contends, Strategy Analytics' Kevin Mak.

The Senior Analyst in the consulting firm's Automotive Electronics Service (AES), Mak has examined various automakers strategies for attaining every-more-stringent emission standards set by government. He concludes that without a dramatic breakthrough in battery technology, the most feasible way to achieve significant reductions is by introducing 48V mild hybrid systems across entire product lines. He writes:

"Without the battery chemistry breakthrough, we believe that a standard 48 volt mild hybrid system fitted across a model range can bring about the increased electrification necessary for auto makers to meet future mandates, but without the high cost associated in deploying large battery packs as on a niche selection of full hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

Such hybrids, like the e-Assist system in the Buick LaCrosse, are relatively low cost and in some cases, manufacturers are incorporating them at no additional cost to the consumer. While their overall impact on improve fuel economy are modest and typically in the 10-15% range, they do offer meaningful emission reductions by automatically stopping and starting engines while at traffic lights or even while cruising down the highway when the engine isn't needed.

The auto stop/start function, which is found on more expensive full-hybrids, can be important in reducing pollution from idling cars in city centers.

Mak's only caveat about the future of electric and plug-in hybrids is that "developments in dynamic wireless charging may also provide an alternative to large battery packs in the long-term." This could be in the form of inductive charging system embedded in roads or even beamed to the car, though being in the path of such a energy beam sounds a bit disconcerting.

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