Behind the new model razzmatazz at this year’s Paris motor show, there was also dazzling array of new technologies showcased by some of the world’s leading parts manufacturers, reports Matthew Beecham.


Antonov introduced an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission in Paris.  The company has previously developed a mechanically-controlled four-speed version, leading to Antonov Automatic Drive (AAD) licenses being purchased by Honda and three specialist transmission manufacturers in France, Germany and India. “Unlike continuously variable transmissions and toroidal devices, AAD automatics do not require ultra-high precision engineering or new materials and can be entirely manufactured using existing processes,” said the company’s Franco-Bulgarian founder, Roumen Antonov.  The six-speed transmission is just 250mm long, making it suitable for small cars.

Antonov’s six-speed
automatic transmission

Source: Antonov


The world’s largest airbag supplier, Autoliv displayed its anti-sliding airbag. The new airbag was introduced in Renault’s new two- and three-door Mégane, which also made its world debut at the Paris motor show. The Swedish company claims the anti-sliding bag is the first of its kind in the world aimed at preventing occupants sliding under the seat belt in a crash situation.  Another unique feature is its construction; it is made of metal sheets instead of textile fabric. The airbag is housed under the seat cushion. In the event of a frontal crash, the gas generator in the bag inflates the metallic five-litre envelope, which then lifts the front part of the seat cushion to create a stopping ridge for the occupant’s pelvis. The steel sheet in the bag is so thin that it assumes the shape of the occupant’s pelvis. The pressure in the bag is held constant during the whole crash, thanks to a pressure valve. Autoliv say the new airbag will primarily be used in vehicles where it is not possible to install dual seat belt pretensioners. This is typically the case in a two- or a three-door vehicle as the second pretensioner, which is mounted on the outboard side of a front seat, impedes with the access to the rear seats.

Cut-away of Autoliv’s
anti-sliding airbag

Source: Autoliv

Without Autoliv’s
anti-sliding airbag

Source: Autoliv

With the
anti-sliding airbag

Source: Autoliv


Delphi used the show to introduce a number of new technologies, including its latest generation diesel injection system, the Multec DCR 1600.  Compared to its predecessor, the new system provides an increased injection pressure and more accurate control of very small volumes of fuel, introducing the option of up to five injection events during a combustion cycle, allowing for better engine combustion. Since the launch of its first common rail system in 2000, Delphi has manufactured more than one million systems to date, with booked business expected to exceed 2.5 million systems per year by 2006.  Delphi’s vision for advanced diesel common rail technology includes the development of both an 1800 and 2000 bar injector, as well as an accumulator piezo diesel injector.

Delphi’s Mobile Multimedia business also used the event to launch the first integrated multimedia and off-board navigation system for volume vehicles.  Because much of the information is downloaded from a service centre rather than stored and managed internally, the unit is simpler (with less memory and processing power) and therefore offered at a lower cost.  For the motorist, it also means they receive the latest turn-by-turn navigation information, eliminating the need to buy CD-based maps for each area. Delphi’s voice-activated Communiport R@dio also includes a range of audio, e-mail and personal diary functions.

As an industry first, Delphi is supplying an under-the-floor climate control system for the fourth generation Renault Espace, saving up to 50-litres of in-dash space.  The system, mounted under the floor and beneath the front passenger seat, directs air through ducts extended to the first row of rear seats, circulating air evenly throughout the vehicle cabin.  It also means initial installation is easier and the system is more accessible for subsequent servicing.  Production for this €100 million contract began in July 2002 at Delphi’s thermal facilities in Poland, France and Hungary.


Denso also displayed a number of new technologies, including the world’s first carbon dioxide (CO2) air conditioning system, a 1,800-bar diesel common rail system and a front-end module. 

Denso is the world’s largest supplier of automotive air conditioning systems with a 24% market share.  Its CO2  air conditioning unit differs from a conventional system in a number of novel ways:  First, a gas cooler cools CO2 refrigerant discharged from the compressor.  Because CO2 refrigerant exceeds the critical point of CO2  at the high-pressure side, CO2 refrigerant is not condensed by the gas cooler.  Instead, the expansion valve condenses a part of the CO2 refrigerant as a result of adiabaltic expansion.  The second main departure is the way in which the inner heat exchanger is located between the gas cooler and the heat exchanger in order to further cool the CO2 refrigerant, discharged from the gas cooler, by exchanging heat with refrigerant flowing at the low pressure side of the system.  Denso also claims that the unit is easier to install since the accumulator is integrated with the internal heat exchanger and the expansion valve.

Basic structure of Denso’s carbon dioxide

 air conditioning system.

Source: Denso

Denso also showcased its latest common rail diesel injection system.  One of the system’s unique features is its supply pump, capable of injecting fuel at up to 1,800 bar, thereby reducing the concentration of particulate matter in emissions.  Adopting an outer cam structure rather than an inner cam structure allows the supply pump to generate such high pressure.  Denso claims it s two-cylinder pump is also lighter and smaller than conventional designs.  The other novel departure of this common rail system is that it uses Denso’s latest solenoid injectors with improved response properties, thereby shortening the interval of injections and realising multiple injections.  In Europe, the system is installed in the Mazda Atenza and MPV.  Denso will start full-scale production of this system in Hungary in 2003. 


Source: Denso

1,800-bar diesel
common rail system

Source: Denso


Source: Denso

Denso approaches modularisation from two angles: as a way of combining the functions of two or more components into a single module, and as an integral part of its efforts to make components smaller, lighter and more functional.  Following this approach, Denso designed a front-end module for the Daihatsu Copen.  It includes a radiator, air conditioning condenser, fan, inter-cooler, air cleaner and front-frame carrier.  The company began shipping this module in June 2002. Following delivery, Daihatsu attaches the bumper and headlamps to the module. In an effort to make the module lighter and more compact, the front-frame carrier itself is formed by a newly developed injection moulding process from a lighter, cheaper polypropylene material reinforced with long fibre glass.  Changing the carrier material and improving the thermal efficiencies resulted in a 30% reduction in weight over conventional designs.  The company’s design team also added an air duct for the air conditioner condenser to prevent hot air from moving from the engine compartment to the condenser.  This novel twist led to lowering the temperature at the front of the condenser by 5°C when the engine is idling and reducing the amount of power needed for the air conditioner compressor operation by some 13%. Denso also placed the intercooler in front of the engine allowing better airflow and enabling the intercooler package to be designed 30% smaller than if placed directly above the engine.

Front-end module
for the Daihatsu Copen

Source: Denso


Hella used the event to showcase its latest lighting and electronics technologies, and announced that the world’s first cornering headlight had entered production for the Audi A8. The system uses swivelling bi-xenon headlamps to shed more light around blind corners and at crossroads. Other model applications will follow in 2003.  Its variable, intelligent front lighting system VARILIS goes further.  The system automatically adjusts itself depending on the driving situation and lighting condition.  But we won’t be able to use this technology until regulations have been approved, probably by 2005.  In the meantime, the German lighting specialist is developing headlamps using light guide technology and Night Vision Systems.  The company also displayed a variety of components from its automotive electronics businesses, including body electronics, lighting electronics, powertrain control, heating control and sensors and components. 

Johnson Controls

Johnson Controls presented some new ideas and technologies for interior design. In experimenting with new colours and material combinations, the company’s designers came up with their ‘Special Effect Door’. The concept provides a vision of what door panels might look like in tomorrow’s small cars.  But first they needed to characterise those car buyers, so defined three basic trend types: Young Trendsetter, Active Life, and Glamour. They then matched the three different trend styles to specific materials and colours.  Johnson Controls see the ‘Young Trendsetter’ as one who ‘thrives on change’ and ‘enjoys fun and games.’  Lively colours and unique details appeal to this type, reflected in the door prototype.  The door panel carrier is translucent light blue while the door handle and map pocket glow in blue and white tones, and the middle section is covered in green fabric. 

Special Effect Door
for the ‘Young Trendsetter’

Source: Johnson Controls

Climate-controlled seats have long since featured in the luxury car segment but have been too expensive to permeate the lower ranges.  Johnson Controls has come up with a cost-effective solution. Its EcoClimate seat features a ventilation system without the use of fans.  It uses ‘breathable’ materials embedded inside the seat cushions and backrest to absorb moisture. It was designed especially for entry-level cars and vehicles in the small to lower medium segments and marketed as a cheaper solution to more expensive active seat ventilation systems. As a compliment to air-conditioning, its EcoClimate seat will be available as driver, passenger or rear seats.

EcoClimate seat

Source: Johnson Controls

Johnson Controls also displayed its absorbent glass mat battery technology, vlies.tec. Unlike conventional batteries that use storage accumulators, the vlies.tec features an absorbent glass fleece that surrounds and binds the battery acid, thereby prolonging service life, lowering weight and volume enabling it to squeeze into areas other than the engine compartment.  It also performs better under cold start conditions. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and E-class and VW Phaeton are fitted with this battery.

Vlies.tec battery

Source: Johnson Controls

CD players, DVD screens and storage bins are standard features found in modern cars.  The problem for packaging designers, however, is where to position them in an increasingly over-crowded cockpit.  Johnson Controls reckons it has the answer.  Its new Lifestyles Rail System consists of two parallel aluminium rails mounted on the overhead, running from the windscreen to the rear window.  Various electronic modules can be located between the rails, freeing up the dashboard. The occupants can also rearrange various non-electronic modules by simply clicking them into place.  The system is set to appear on a 2004 model-year vehicle.

Lifestyles Rail System

Source: Johnson Controls


Koyo is the world’s third largest bearings manufacturer and is one of the leading suppliers of automotive power steering systems in Europe. Electric power steering systems are predicted to be fitted to more than 30% of new cars built worldwide in 2005, equivalent to 20 million vehicles.  Koyo claims it was the first company to develop and mass-produce such systems.  Electric and electrohydraulic power steering systems are typically lighter and more compact than conventional hydraulic systems.