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John Carey on the Bosch Automotive Handbook

By John Carey, 07 Jul 2019 Opinion

John Carey on the Bosch Automotive Handbook

“In one very surprising way, the Bosch Automotive Handbook has failed to keep pace with the march of technology”

My bible is putting on weight. For decades I’ve kept a copy on my desk, and it’s been a frequently used and unfailingly reliable guide to car-related truth. It’s the Bosch Automotive Handbook.

The new edition, published late last year, is a hard-bound brick of 1778 cigarette-paper-thin pages. “In this the 10th edition in English many subjects have been included for the first time, completely revised or enhanced,” promises the foreword. “More than 200 pages have been added.” Some of these are devoted to hybrid drives, but the internal combustion section has also expanded. The coverage of operating fluids has grown, and there’s an entire section covering seals.

Like the Christian bible, the Bosch Automotive Handbook is the work of many authors. Around 240 experts contributed to its creation. Many are academics. Others work in the car industry, for manufacturers including Porsche, Volkswagen, Audi and Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz. Some are employed by component suppliers like ZF, Michelin, BASF and, of course, Bosch.

Read: Bosch aims to make car keys a thing of the past

It begins at the very beginning, with definitions of the quantities and units used in subsequent chapters. Next come outlines of mechanics, acoustics, optics, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics. Then it’s on to the basics of electrical engineering, electronics, chemistry, electrochemistry, mathematics, statistics, finite element analysis, and more.

The real meat of the Bosch Automotive Handbook are the chapters that follow. These describe and discuss every aspect of automotive technology in principle and in practice.

This is not a book to read for entertainment, another thing it has in common with the bible. The writing style is desert-dry, but the columns of text are lightened at least a little by a multitude of tables, graphs, equations, schematics, cross-sectional diagrams and beautiful cutaways, all in glorious black and white.

No-one will dip into the Bosch Automotive Handbook seeking spiritual solace or moral guidance, but, Lord, it has the answers to so many questions...

Some of them are simple and practical. Convert US mpg to L/100km? The equation to calculate kinetic energy? The melting point of aluminium? The weight of a litre of unleaded? Hooke’s law? How much does a tyre’s grip typically decline on a wet road compared to dry bitumen?

Even more useful for someone trying to keep up with a rapidly evolving industry are the summaries of the current state of the automotive art. Need a quick grounding in driver-assistance systems? What are exhaust emission limits, present and planned, around the world? What makes a switched reluctance electric motor different? And more. Oh so much more...

But in one very surprising way the Bosch Automotive Handbook has failed to keep pace with the march of technology. When I learned the new and updated edition had published, I headed straight to Amazon to buy it. The new content on hybrids and electric drives alone made it, for me, irresistible. Plus, loaded on my Kindle, I’d be able to have the Bosch Automotive Handbook with me everywhere I work, not just at my desk.

I was, to put it very mildly, astonished to find there was no e-book option. After I’d sighed, shrugged and ordered the paper version, Amazon had a question. Would I like to be able to buy this book in Kindle format? Sure would, I responded...

So I guess that demigod of e-commerce, Jeff Bezos, will soon be sending some disciples to Stuttgart to give Bosch a bit of a smiting, bible style...