Of all the components attached to the engine, none has been asked to carry a bigger load year after year than the alternator.
As electronics take over a greater number of mechanical functions, the performance of the alternator, the device that produces electricity to power accessories at engine speeds as low as idle, will become even more critical.
The average car in 1960 - the year Chrysler Corp. introduced the alternator on passenger cars - didn't have much in the way of electrical accessories.
The alternator powered the engine, lights, radio, heater motor and wipers. The alternator needed to generate about 30 amps to keep everything running smoothly.
Some of today's vehicles are outfitted with electric power steering, DVD players, megawatt stereos, computerized front and rear air conditioning systems, high-performance lighting systems, electric window defrosters, heated and cooled power seats, sunroofs, electric engine fans and electric water pumps.
The alternator on a typical light vehicle puts out somewhere between 130 amps and 200 amps.
In the 1990s, engineers were concerned that cars would require so much electricity that the 12-volt electrical system used in cars since the 1950s would have to be replaced with a 42-volt system.