2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-08-25 09:36
The old beard key has long since had its day. The modern door openers combine more and more functions and have long since become design objects.
More and more drivers have a “key experience” in their pocket. "For several years now, manufacturers have been paying more and more attention to the symbolic value of a key," says Ulrich Müller, who heads product development at the supplier Huf Hülsbeck & Fürst in Velbert (North Rhine-Westphalia). "That is why we are not only investing in new functions, but also in design." Buyers of a new car do not simply receive a piece of metal in a plastic jacket, but often a veritable small work of art that is also good for flattering the hand. Only when such a key is lost does joy quickly turn into frustration.
"Of course, modern door openers with many functions and unusual shapes are more expensive than the old bit key that you can have copied in any hardware store," says Hans-Georg Marmit from the expert organization KÜS in Losheim am See (Saarland). But they are also more secure: “Electronic locking systems must have at least 50,000 variants, whereas mechanical keys only need 1000 different keys per series,” adds KÜS engineer Thorsten Helfen.
The latest innovation is available from Audi. After the competition from Mercedes and BMW, the Ingolstadt-based company has now also developed a key for the A5 without a visible beard. According to Audi spokesman Jochen Grüten, the high-tech block, encased in chrome-plated plastic, is pushed into a slot in the dashboard and starts the car by pushing it instead of turning it. The fact that the new key is relatively large and heavy without fulfilling a mechanical function is a matter of taste, argues head of design Stefan Sielaff: "This is a small example of how an old tool can be stylishly renewed".
But Audi has not only changed the shape of the A5 key, it has also expanded the functions. The chip now also saves the current mileage or warning messages from the cockpit. "This makes it easier and faster for the customer service representative to pick up the vehicle during service," explains Audi spokesman Grüten.
But car keys not only get a memory, they also learn to "speak". "While drivers used to have to pull the door handle before they knew their car was locked, the key now has this information ready for them," explains Enno Pflug from the supplier Siemens VDO based in Regensburg. “One push of a button is all it takes, and at a distance of up to 100 meters, green or red light-emitting diodes indicate whether the car is locked,” explains Pflug. Depending on the system, the “bidirectional key” can also be used to check whether the light is still on or the radio is still playing.
This technology is used, for example, in the key of the new Volvo S80, which the Swedes call "Personal Car Communicator". Together with a sensor in the vehicle, according to Volvo, the key can also detect whether thieves have tampered with the car or are even still in the interior.
However, such additional functions increase the technical effort and the number of components: “Whereas the first key was milled from a piece of sheet metal, a modern ignition key today, including the transmission and reception technology, all electronics and the elements on the circuit board, has around a hundred individual parts »Says Huf developer Müller. Incidentally, a beard is still part of it. It is usually hidden in the housing. But if the electronics go on strike or the batteries are empty, there is a mechanical fallback solution.
"Thieves often use this lock cylinder for emergencies," says Müller. Manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that the emergency key is rarely used. For example, the remote control key on Land Rover is waterproof and still works when you put it in your swimming trunks for swimming. Jaguar equips it in the new XK with a battery that is charged while driving. Such solutions also drive up the price, so that a high-tech key can quickly cost ten times as much as a normal radio key.
Made of solid gold
“In addition to the function, the shape of the key is becoming increasingly important,” explains developer Müller. It should lie comfortably in the hand, which is why noble material is used. The housing is often chrome-plated or covered with decorative strips. And while every gram is saved with other components in the car, a key cannot be heavy enough. At Porsche, for example, it is shaped like a Cayenne with even the headlights shining. The developers are also thinking about paintwork in body color. The experts at Huf Hülsbeck & Fürst have even worked with solid gold, according to Müller: "But so far this has only been a one-off production for a particularly prominent and colorful customer." (dpa)
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