By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
On the face of it, that may not be news to you. Electric propulsion in one form or another is springing up everywhere, and almost every manufacturer on the planet is looking at providing some form of electro- propulsion on at least one model as soon as possible. Even the resurrected DeLorean Motor Corporation has shown an operating prototype of an all-electric DMC-12 that they hope to get into production by 2013.
Electrification is moving into the mainstream as well. Frito-Lay is debuting ten new all-electric delivery trucks in central Florida, and the company plans to have a total of more than 175 in service within a year. The company has stated that it has confidence in the technology and would not make the investment otherwise. That fleet, they say, will save half a million gallons of fuel each year.
Still another sign, if you need one: Exide batteries recently announced production of the 2,500,000th “micro-hybrid” battery in Europe. These are not futuristic units made of exotic unpronouncables; they are well developed and optimized lead-acid batteries in absorbent glass mat (AGM) or enhanced cycling mat (ECM) form. They’re used in vehicles with “idle-stop” technology. We’re just starting to see that here, but it’s been featured in Europe for years. Two and a half million of them since 2009 should speak to the popularity of the idea.
Years ago, one industry buzz-word was the “beltless engine.” It’s day may be here as one by one, belt-driven systems succumb to the song of the electron. Electric A/C compressors are now as common as cats and can be found on anything from Prius to Peterbilt and Volt to Volvo. It still takes a lot of power to drive the compressor, but that power isn’t being robbed directly from the crankshaft.
It’s not impossible that you have already worked on a vehicle with an electric coolant pump, secondary pump or similar device. They’re showing up on domestic, Asian and European products at every turn. Pull up a service manual and make yourself comfortable; you’ll be seeing a lot more of these as the need for thermal management grows.
Even a classic performance item is not immune. The French company Valeo recently announced that, after acquiring a British technology company, they plan to become the first automotive supplier to offer a range of electric superchargers.
All this electro-drive is nice enough and it wouldn’t be there if the designers and engineers didn’t think it had some benefit. One benefit of driving a component, say a coolant pump or compressor, through a wire is that its speed or duty-cycle can be easily controlled. Only run the unit at full speed when you need to, and perhaps at half-speed when you don’t.
The guess here is that most of what you’ll see in your shop won’t be motor problems; in general, motor technology is well developed and the products are robust. Instead – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the problem will be in the control system.
The customer complaint “it doesn’t work” may really mean “it’s not getting the right message” and it’s up to you to find out why. As we all know from experience, great engineering can be brought low by a corroded connector, and the finest motor in the world won’t operate if a control module makes a decision based on bogus information from a sensor. Hybrids and EVs have brought us new and higher voltages in big orange-clad wires, but tracking the digital and low-voltage signals in the control systems is becoming the key to a shop’s success.
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When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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The 33rd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place February 7-9, 2013 at the Caribe Royale, Orlando, FL
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