Hella expects growth, but not from electric vehicles

  • 10-May-2010 10:28 EDT

Directional headlights from Hella offer twice the visual range when driving through bends, considerably improving safety.

Fuel conservation is one of Hella’s strategic thrusts, but the electrification trend isn’t a major part of the company’s bullish marketing plan. After a soft year in 2009, the company is predicting that its multipronged strategy will yield an annual growth rate of 20% over the next three years for its North American electronics business.

Hella was quiet during part of 2009 as it restructured for the new realities of the auto industry. Now that the privately held company completed a bond offering to solidify its finances, strong growth is expected. Its target is 20% per year, executives said during a press conference at SAE 2010 World Congress.

That growth will come in a range of electronic technologies including LEDs and sensors. Reducing fuel consumption is a cornerstone of this strategy. Hella products can help vehicle developers cut fuel consumption by as much as 30%, according to Dr. Martin Fischer, President of Hella Electronics Corp.

That is a significant cut made without converting to hybrid or plug-in electrification schemes. “We don’t think there’s enough growth in electric vehicles over the next five years to warrant a major effort in electrification,” he said. “Hybrid and electric vehicles are not the only ways to improve fuel economy.”

Hella contends that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to fuel efficiency. Instead, small gains in many areas will add up to significant improvements.

In a study comparing two European cars with similar 138 hp (100 kW) engines, the one equipped with Hella’s start-stop system produced 17% less carbon dioxide than the one without it. That system, which includes Hella’s intelligent battery sensor and voltage stabilizer, improved fuel consumption by 20%.

Fischer noted that Hella’s full-LED lighting and HID lighting systems can reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Accelerator pedal sensors, fuel and oil-quality sensors, demand-driven fuel pumps, electric vacuum pumps, and electric turbocharger actuators are among other Hella technologies that can add to fuel savings.

“The cumulative benefits of these technologies can have a significant impact on a vehicle’s overall fuel economy, increasing its efficiency by up to 30 percent,” Fischer said.

Though Hella is focused on internal-combustion engines, it’s not ignoring the trend to electrification. Many of its components, including throttle pedal sensors, can be used in any type of powertrain.

Hella is also beefing up efforts in lighting. Its white LEDs and Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFLS) are already used on production vehicles. AFLS switches to low beams when vehicles are coming and it also adjusts light patterns when vehicles are turning.

White LEDs are increasingly being used in headlights and for interior lighting, providing colors that are closer to sunlight, lower power consumption, and smaller size. Colored LEDs are already widely used in taillights and interiors.

Hella is also addressing the trend to active safety with 24-GHz radar, which is being used in lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and other applications.

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In Washington, DC, at the 2018 SAE Government/Industry meeting this week, cellular-communications giant AT&T affirmed in a session on connected-vehicle technology that it will launch ultra-fast mobile 5G service in limited areas sometime late this year.

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