TURIN - Fiat Auto's view of the future includes everything from electronically-controlled engine valves to driving with a joystick.
Fiat engineers demonstrated some of their ideas at a recent technical presentation here. The first to appear in production will be a new hydraulic variable valve actuation system scheduled for 2004.
In a conventional engine, valve opening and closure are mechanically controlled by camshafts. In Fiat's variable valve actuation system, the cams are hydraulically controlled by an on-board computer.
When adapted to a 2.4-liter Lancia Kappa, the system lowers fuel consumption by 12 percent, according to Fiat. The system increases torque at low speeds by up to 15 percent and total output by nearly 10 percent.
Fiat engineers said they prefer the new hydraulic system to forthcoming electromagnetic valves. They say variable valve actuation controls are much cheaper, can be retrofitted in existing engine heads and can also be applied to
turbodiesel engines. Turbodiesel application is not possible withelectromagnetic valve actuators.
In 2005, Fiat will introduce what it calls the 'Ego Mode' vehicle, which can be adapted to a driver's individual style by using advanced electronic controls.
The 'Ego Mode' will include electronic control systems now available, plus new ones being developed. With almost all mechanical components controlled by electronics in the future, on-board artificial intelligence units will record a driver's personal road habits. Drivers will insert a card containing information on their handling preferences in an on-board computer interface. The computer will adjust the car's controls accordingly.
In 2010, Fiat will introduce 'corner-by-wire,' a combination of electric steering, braking and damping.
Engineers are considering placing a steering motor on each wheel. The central on-board computer would then give each wheel the best angle in any road situation.
In 2006, Fiat will introduce a new hybrid drive system - probably on the third generation Punto. Compared with existing hybrids, the Fiat version adds a second clutch between the engine and the unit that acts as electric motor and alternator. This allows complete disengagement of the internal combustion engine while waiting in traffic. The vehicle can then be driven in fully electric mode, powered by the electricity generated during braking.
A 1.2-liter Fiat Brava equipped with the system showed performance similar to the 1.6-liter version while reducing fuel consumption by some 45 percent in city driving.
In 2015, Fiat envisions production of its 'New Feeling' vehicle. The special car replaces conventional controls with interfaces such as keypad, mouse, joystick and voice controls.