PARIS - Valeo has a star on its hands, and it hasn't even begun production.
The company's new generation of alternator is called STARS, short for 'starter alternator reversible system.'
Production of STARS will begin in the first half of 2002 at Valeo's Etaples plant in northern France.
The breakthrough device replaces a traditional starter with an alternator managed by an electronic converter.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Opel and Volkswagen are expected to be the first automakers to use the system.
Its main advantage is in stop-and-go situations: when the car stops, the engine stops.
As a result, gasoline consumption is reduced by 4 percent to 5 percent on a MVEG cycle - a mixture of urban, road and highway traffic - and up to 5 percent to 10 percent on an urban cycle.
The system reduces noise through silent cranking and provides an additional acoustic comfort at standstill. It also provides extra room under the hood because two machines are replaced by one.
Today, STARS is designed to ensure cold starts for gasoline engines under 1.5-liter displacement and for 1.0-liter diesel engines.
'We first targeted small cars; that is, vehicles in A and B segment,' says Eckart von Westerholt, STARS project manager for Valeo's electrical systems division.
'But we want to extend it to medium-sized vehicles and gasoline engines under 2.0-liter capacity, although in this case it will be necessary to add an extra small starter for cold starting.'
Currently, STARS is $52 more expensive than a traditional alternator and starter, mainly because of the cost of electronics.
'We think the extra cost can be reduced within three to four years,' von Westerholt says.
Valeo forecasts that one-third of mini and supermini cars in Western Europe will be equipped with the new starter-alternator by the end of the decade.