Electronics and engine component supplier Siemens VDO Automotive A.G. is adding brakes to its product portfolio.
Until now, the German company has supplied only electronic control modules for brake systems.
But Siemens has developed an electric braking system, using technology from the aerospace industry, that can be used with a 12-volt vehicle electrical system. Most brake-by-wire technologies require a 42-volt system to operate with enough force.
Siemens announced the system in September at the recent 61st International Motor Show in Frankfurt.
The system, which the supplier calls the electronic wedge brake, eliminates the need for hydraulic lines, brake boosters and antilock control units. That removes weight from the vehicle and simplifies assembly. The company said the unit also can be used as an automatic parking brake.
Siemens did not say what the system costs.
The supplier said it has a commitment, but not a contract, from an auto maker for the technology. It expects production to begin within five years.
Speeding toward brakes
Siemens expressed confidence that the system will change the vehicle braking business. The company intends to ``systematically conquer the brake market,'' according to its press materials. The supplier estimates the global brake market at about $30 billion a year.
But don't look for Siemens to buy another brake supplier.
``It is not our intention to be a brake rotor supplier,'' said Wolfgang Dehen, CEO of Siemens VDO. The message: Parts such as rotors will be commodities, while Siemens will focus on the high-value caliper part of the brake system.
The move puts Siemens, of Regensburg, Germany, in more direct competition with German rivals Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental A.G., as well as Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. and TRW Automotive Inc. Those suppliers have long been brake suppliers to auto makers.
Motors, not fluid
A traditional hydraulic brake system uses fluid pressure to press brake pads against a brake disc or drum to slow the vehicle. In the Siemens system, two small electric motors move the brake pad, which is attached to a wedge-shaped piece of metal, against the brake disc to slow the vehicle.
The wedge brake can produce shorter stopping distances than conventional antilock brakes, said Bernd Gombert, chief technology officer for body and chassis electronics at Siemens. Mechanical decoupling of the brake pedal and brake can be used to reduce the familiar pulsing of the pedal when an antilock braking system (ABS) is in use.
According to the company, the brake eliminates the need for components such as hydraulic pipes, brake cylinders, brake boosters or ABS control units. This reduces weight. Also, by eliminating the hydraulic system, it helps to reduce the vehicle's environmental impact.
With worldwide original equipment sales of $11.6 billion in 2004, Siemens VDO is No. 10 on the list of top 100 global suppliers ranked by Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business.
In prepared remarks at the auto show, Mr. Dehen said Siemens will continue to grow as it develops technologies. He predicted that the global market for automotive components will grow by nearly 40 percent or about $246 billion to $884.1 billion over the next 10 years.