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Punto pioneers electric steering with switchable `feel`

01 September, 1999

Punto pioneers electric steering with switchable `feel`

The new version of Fiat`s Punto car is claimed to be the first mass-market vehicle to use electric power steering instead of a hydraulic mechanism. A switch on the Punto`s dashboard will allow the driver to change the steering "feel" to suit city or motorway conditions.

Specially developed control algorithms will correlate the steering effort to the car`s speed, the steering position and required torque.

"It`s the first full-performing electric power steering system that actively changes the way the car performs," says Dan Crishon, global director of electric power steering for Delphi Automotive Systems, which developed the system, called Dualdrive, for Fiat.

One of the big advantages of electric steering, according to Crishon, is that it can be customised to meet specific performance requirements. "With hydraulic steering," he explains, "designers must choose an average value between steering wheel lightness and taut responsiveness that will perform all of the manoeuvres required by a vehicle". With the electric version, "steering can be changed depending on the situation".

Electrically-powered steering also eliminates the traditional hydraulic pump, hoses and fluid, as well as the belt and pulley drive from the engine. This saves space, avoids leakages and reduces the power drawn from the engine, improving fuel economy and acceleration. Another advantage is that the electric power steering will work even if the engine is not running.

The new Punto goes on sale later this year.

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