Mattingly: "We continue to provide more and more features in the car, but the current load we are pulling from the engine has gone flat. It means we are getting more efficient."
When a car goes in for service, more than likely it's because of an electrical glitch. What is the Chrysler group doing to make electronics more reliable?
I tend to put a different spin on that. The reason it goes in for an electrical issue is that we are now able to electrically diagnose problems that in the past we could not, such as leak detection. There was a time when very few of my modules had microprocessors and diagnostics. Now it's 100 percent. From a conditions-per-1,000 vehicles, it is starting to go down at a good pace, especially in the Chrysler group.
Where is 42-volt technology?
From a passenger car standpoint it's in the pretty distant future. From an in-car infrastructure standpoint, the costs to overcome it require a significant milestone to be met. Once you get the infrastructure in the car, then there all the add-ons, and you can do things cheaper. Standing alone, 42 volts doesn't really work. We have not really found any key systems that can't work on 12 volts. We keep figuring out ways to make 12 volts work.
A few years ago, 42-volt systems were the Next Big Thing. What happened?
We felt the power consumption in the car was going to go up to a point were we wouldn't be able to distribute the wire. Actually, we found smarter ways of doing load management. In addition, alternator efficiency continues to improve beyond our expectations.
Do you envision start-stop systems as being a part of mainstream automobiles?
The possibility of gaining fuel economy from it is real. But you have to put some infrastructure in the car. It's getting to the point where the cost efficiency of the system is reasonable. In the past, when you had to do it with a series motor, it was not cost effective. In the foreseeable future, stop-start technology, especially for low-displacement cars, gets you some economy gains in the city driving cycle. It's got a place in the future as costs come down.
What role do electronics have to play in making vehicles more fuel-efficient?
First and foremost are the engine management systems themselves. As the microprocessors get faster and faster, we are able to do more calculations at a much higher rate, read more sensors, do integral powertrain control as opposed to just engine controls.
On the other side, body electrical and chassis electrical, in terms of efficiency of use, the less current the features on the car have to draw, the less the pull on the alternator and the more efficient the car. We continue to provide more and more features in the car, but the current load we are pulling from the engine has gone flat. It means we are getting more efficient.
Do gasoline electric hybrids make economic sense?
If you look at the math right now, at $2 a gallon it takes a customer for a hybrid vehicle 10 years to pay off his investment. Even at double the current price for gasoline it takes five years. It takes a price of $5 per gallon to pay off a hybrid within the reasonable ownership period. There will always be customers who want to be first and want to be green or early adopters, so there's going to be a demand for hybrids. But the volume segment that we play to does the math.
Is DaimlerChrysler working on gasoline-electric hybrids other than the Dodge Ram truck?
There's activity. But fuel cells are ultimately where you want to go. A significant part of the hybrid application of the motor drive, the battery management, the regenerative braking, will carry over, and some of the learning of how it works in a real-world application is part of the benefit of doing it. If you believe in hydrogen fuel cells as the endgame, part of the way to get there is adaptation of some level of hybridization.