Eaton Corp. unveiled a new energy-recovery system for vehicles at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, one that could cut vehicle fuel consumption between 25% and 35%, depending on the application.

Eaton's system, called Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA), was developed in a collaborative program with Ford Motor Co. and was unveiled at the show in the Ford Mighty F-350 TONKA concept truck. The system recovers energy normally lost during vehicle braking and converts it into hydraulic power that can be used for vehicle acceleration.

Eaton's HLA system could be ready for commercial introduction by mid-decade, and Eaton said the total potential for the technology could approach $500 million industry-wide by the end of the decade. HLA is part of a larger hydraulic hybrid development effort for automotive powertrains first announced in October, 2001.

HLA works by recovering a portion of the energy normally wasted as heat by the vehicle's brakes. This converted energy is held in fluid form in an on-board reservoir until the driver next accelerates the vehicle. Fuel savings occurs when the stored energy is then used with engine-based power in the initial, high-fuel-consumption acceleration of the vehicle. Eaton officials said acceleration is "brisk," due to the high power density of hydraulics, and energy transfer is virtually transparent to the driver.

"HLA has the potential to significantly impact two critical areas of long-term concern to ongoing vehicle development: fuel economy and exhaust emissions," said Alexander M. Cutler, Eaton's chairman & CEO. "We are highly optimistic about the future of this technology."