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Prince Akishino of Japan joins top automotive leaders to open FISITA 2006 in Yokohama

22 October 2006

The 31st FISITA World Automotive Congress was officially opened by Prince Akishino of Japan, Fuji Cho, Chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), Hiroshi Nakada, Major of Yokohama, Prof. Yasuhiro Daisho, Congress Chairman, Daniel M. Hancock, FISITA President and Nobuo Okubo, President of the JSAE. The congress, taking place from 22 27 October at the Pacifico Congress Centre in Yokohama, Japan, is organised by FISITA, the International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies and JSAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan. With almost 60 years of history, this biennial event has become the premier international gathering for automotive engineers from industry, government, academia, environmental and other relevant organisations. Together, they explore the current issues in automotive technology in terms of research, development, design and manufacturing.

Perspectives on the future automobile industry, technology and mobility

In todays opening plenary session, top technical executive from five global automakers discussed the key issues which they believe will drive the automotive industry in the next two decades. Dr. Lawrence D. Burns, General Motors Vice President Research & Development & Strategic Planning, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Burkhard Goeschel, member of BMWs Board of Management, Jacques Lacambre, Chief Technology Officer of Renault; Dr. Hyun-Soon Lee, President of Hyundais Research & Development Centre, and Motoatsu Shiraishi, President and Director of Research & Development of Honda, took the stage. Each presented their companys thinking in advanced automotive technologies before taking part in a panel discussion.

In his introductory speech, Michael P. Walsh, plenary session moderator, noted that although modern vehicles have become cleaner, safer and more efficient than ever before, the automotive industry still has to meet a number of challenges; notably, urban air pollution, global warming, oil consumption and energy security. Moreover, congestion and safety continue to be serious concerns.

Regarding the sustainability of automotive transportation, Dr. Lawrence D. Burns, GM, emphasised that vehicles need a fundamentally new DNA, meaning:

  • from the Internal Combustion Engine to Electric Propulsion (electric motors, fuel cells and batteries)
  • from Petroleum to Electricity and Hydrogen
  • from Mechanical Systems to Electrical and Electronic Systems
  • from Stand alone Systems to Connected Vehicle technologies

Dr. Burns explained that with this new DNA, fundamentally better vehicles which meet performance, design, emissions, safety and energy efficiency targets can be produced. He believed that the technology will be sufficiently developed by 2010.

Provided that over the next five years the fuelling infrastructure improves and expands, volumes could increase up to 1 million units. Costs could be even reduced to a level sufficient to compete with conventional vehicles.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Göschel pointed out that BMW is not only focussing on individual technical solutions but rather on four complete areas of technology:

  • Optimisation of the combustion engine.
  • Energy management.
  • Lightweight construction.
  • Improved aerodynamics.

According to BMW, the combustion engine will remain the main driving force. Nevertheless, the company sees potential in the electrification and intelligent control of ancillary units such as power steering or the coolant pump. To ensure individual mobility in the long term, the Group is concentrating on hydrogen technology, as demonstrated recently by the launch of the BMW Hydrogen 7.

Jacques Lacambre from Renault emphasised that the availability of new fuels is significant in view of sustainable energy supply and climatic change. With bio-fuels, CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced. In the segments of driving cycles with frequent stop and go and a low average speed, hybridisation can bring significant gains in fuel economy, while in driving segments with higher loads and speed, a supercharged D.I. Diesel is able to bring more merit. Another way of reducing petroleum dependence and getting to Zero Emissions Vehicles is through electric vehicles (EV). At Renault a small utility electric van is in production and a version using a range extender has already been developed. This EV path could be reactivated with the availability of lithium-ion batteries enabling twice the range, Lacambre stated.

In the field of safety, Motoatsu Shiraishi, Honda, described the companys efforts to reduce the number of traffic accident victims. The company is advancing a new body design in all of its cars and light-trucks. Advanced cruise-assist Highway System (or AHS), foreseen in 2010, should provide inter-vehicular communication and facilitate information exchange between cars and motorcycles on highways and at intersections, helping drivers and riders anticipate danger and avoid accidents.

Dr. Lee of Hyundai noted that the highest fatality proportion category in Korea is the pedestrian while in the OECD overall, the highest proportion is vehicle occupants. Therefore, Hyundai does not only consider safety measures for the occupants of the vehicle, but also countermeasures dealing with pedestrian protection. In the future, vehicle safety must focus on an integrated approach which combines active and passive safety systems, he said.

During the week of the Congress, further plenary sessions will focus on the themes Environment & Energy, Manufacturing & Logistics, Traffic Control & Transportation, Safety and Collaborative Engineering.