Every five years or so, you hear scuttlebutt that sometime soon a luxury car is about to replace its 12-volt electrical system with a battery that will be able to handle all the electronics now being developed for automobiles. Replacement with a 48-volt system is supposed to be planned.
The last time we switched voltage in cars was way back in the mid-1950s, when we went from a 6-volt system to a 12-volt system. Except for a few stragglers, the entire industry switched around the same time.
Back then, it became painfully obvious that the 6-volt system was inadequate to handle modern automobiles, and everyone seemed involved in the switch. Today it is still possible to get 6-volt parts, but they are definitely in the old-car section of the parts catalog.
Everyone has heard rumors that some cars are about to switch. While that's possible, it seems far-fetched to change a small portion of global production to a different voltage. It would be a nightmare to service two systems.
I have heard good reasons why it will be necessary to go to a higher voltage system rather than stay with 12 volts. Certainly for a time it would be more difficult to have a completely different list of parts for newer cars. If the entire model year were changed, it would make the aftermarket quite a bit easier.
I am told that with the increasing number of electronic systems in today's vehicles, a more robust system will be necessary. Everyone seems to acknowledge that we're going to have to convert to a higher voltage system at some point. Everyone seems to conclude that a 48-volt system is the answer.
I would hope that a change would be preceded by a long announcement period to allow everyone -- manufacturers, dealers and the aftermarket -- to be prepared.
With the massive effort required to switch, the industry is going to need quite a bit of lead time. I hope the first announcement is a couple of years away.