For automakers, the migration to electrical accessories such as stop-start, regenerative brakes, electric pumps and electric power steering is starting to look like a stampede.
What's next? One place to look is BMW AG.
BMW wants to coax as much power as possible from a gallon of gasoline -- and protect its performance image in an era of rising fuel-economy standards. So its engineers are searching for high-tech ways to conserve energy.
For instance, BMW is developing an intelligent engine control unit that uses the vehicle's navigation system to more efficiently regulate functions such as battery recharging and engine cooling.
The concept is called "predictive engine management," said Tom Baloga, vice president of engineering for BMW of North America.
The concept works best for motorists on regular daily commutes. After the driver enters a destination, the computer calculates the locations of hills, high-speed highways and low-speed city streets.