Power electronics is the next big thing. Automakers are approaching the limit of what today’s 12-volt systems can handle. Next generation powertrains, as well as new technologies such as Internet access, cell phones and navigation equipment, will require manufacturers to move up to a 42-volt system. Ford engineers are preparing for the shift to 42-volt systems saying: “The question isn’t IF the industry will shift but WHEN.” With 42-volt systems, components such as brakes, transmission and steering all will be linked to a computer to react to road conditions. Higher voltage systems also will have fuel savings benefits making the IC engine more efficient by running accessories such as air-conditioners and power steering. These electrical systems initially will be more expensive and are likely to appear in luxury cars first. Ford says 42-volt systems could begin appearing on cars as early as 2003.