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Going Beltless: Belt-Driven Accessories Go Electric in Newer Cars

DriveBeltsDrive belts are slipping — at least in popularity. Once found under the hood of practically ever motor vehicle in the world, old-fashioned drive belts are giving way to more sophisticated electrical drive systems. Vehicles that used to have as many as four drive belts, including the ever-popular fan belt, now often have just one. Many of today’s hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and the Ford C-Max, have no drive belts at all.

There are several reasons why automotive technicians are likely to see fewer drive belts in the years ahead. First is fuel economy. Drive belts, which rely on pulleys, tension and friction to move parts, are inherently energy inefficient. Friction wastes energy, which it releases in the form of heat. (Just rub your hands together quickly and you’ll feel the heat friction produces.) Whenever a belt is bent around a pulley, energy is lost as well. The typical Mercedes V-8 engine of today uses a single serpentine belt that winds around 10 pulleys, rollers and tensioners to power the car’s water pump, alternator, air conditioner and power steering pump. The energy loss in such a system is enormous.

To minimize waste and boost fuel efficiency, automotive engineers are working to replace old-fashioned belts with electric motors. Honda’s Civic Hybrid, Insight and CR-Z have replaced the starter generator belt with an integrated electric starter generator. Ford and Toyota hybrids now have all-electric air conditioning compressors. Ford and other automakers are starting to belt-driven hydraulic pumps in favor of all-electric power steering.

All of these changes mean greater fuel efficiency and greater durability, but also more complex and expensive repairs when maintenance is required. Relatively speaking, belts are cheap. Electric motors are expensive. Maintaining, repairing and replacing this 21st century equipment takes special knowledge and training.

 Learn Automotive Technology at WyoTech

 If you’d like to make automotive technology your career, you can get the knowledge, training and hands-on experience you need to “go pro” at WyoTech, one of America’s leading schools for automotive technology education.

WyoTech’s Automotive Technology program is offered at its campuses in Blairsville, Pa.; Fremont and Long Beach, Calif.; and Laramie, Wyo. Schedules and availability varies by campus.

For more information on Automotive Technology training, contact WyoTech today.

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

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