36V Battery Engenders Quiet Auto Revolution

42-Volt system seen as way to introduce EV technology.

Published: 19-Dec-2001

A seemingly irreversible move is afoot to start outfitting passenger automobiles with beefier 42-volt batteries starting next year. Not only will the big battery meet consumer gadget demands inside the car, it will change almost everything under the hood, too -- promising at least a 10-percent fuel economy improvement, and perhaps much more.

The 12-volt battery has been a 45-year fixture inside the world's automobiles. It provided plenty of power in the fifties, when the most dramatic electricity drain was cranking the AM radio. But 12 volts can barely power the Barney video playing in the back of the minivan, let alone new luxuries like heated seat cushions.

In 1994, a consortium of researchers centered at MIT predicted the power shortage and suggested a tripling of battery power to 36 volts. The idea caught on quickly and now seems to be inevitable.

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