TRW Automotive GmbH has introduced its electrically powered steering (EPS) belt drive system that will launch on North American models in 2008 and European models in 2009.

Belt drive steering technology, also referred to as 'rack drive', brings the fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide reduction benefits of an electric steering system to higher rack load vehicles as compared to TRW's current column drive EPS system, already launched on more than 30 vehicle models.

The belt drive system only consumes noticeable power when steering assist is needed, providing considerable fuel consumption benefits and reduced CO2 emissions.

The energy consumption of an EPS system is just 10% of a conventional hydraulic power steering system as power assist engages only when needed.

The belt drive system can provide premium performance across a wide range of vehicle platforms with rack assist forces of 11 kilonewtons (kN). Power assist is applied directly to the rack allowing for a responsive, low- inertia, low friction steering system with direct steering feel.

The new product is delivered as a fully tested, ready-to-install unit, and all steering belt, pulley, pump, reservoir and hydraulic lines are eliminated making the product easy to install and maintain.
It can also can be programmed with steering assist functions in line with vehicle manufacturer's requirements - options include speed sensitive, positive and responsive steering feel and the possibility for vehicle manufacturers to fine-tune the steering characteristics.

The system suits small and medium size sport utility vehicles, minivans and light trucks.

Open architecture offers the possibility of integrating future driver assist system features such as safety related support functions or comfort functions like automated parallel parking.

The same system can be used on hybrid electric vehicles without modification, if the rack load of the vehicle is within the given power range of the EPS belt drive system. This enables vehicle manufacturers to put the same type of steering system on a conventional and HEV version of the same platform.