Automobile innovations of the futureDecember 18, 2013
Future innovations in car technologies are likely to focus on fuel efficiency and the use of new materials to make the body of the car lighter in weight. Due to concerns over the depletion of oil reserves and carbon emissions, hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles are likely to dominate future markets.
Driverless technology is also becoming more and more advanced and voice-control will probably become standard in cars of the future due to concern over the number of accidents caused by distracted-driving.
Our continual reliance on petrol and diesel to fuel our cars is unsustainable and the race is on to find the most viable alternative(s). There are currently several models of hybrid car on the market but as they continue to use fossil fuels, at least in part, they are likely to be more of an interim measure than the final answer.
Electric cars are also available but they tend to be expensive and have a limited range. Once the range problem is solved electric cars may well be part of the answer to a new and sustainable form of motoring. However, electricity is currently created largely through the burning of fossil fuels so until our electricity is produced sustainably, electric cars will also only ever be a part of the solution.
Other, more radical, solutions will probably end up dominating the market. Technologies such as hydrogen cells, compressed air cars and the use of liquid nitrogen as a fuel are currently in their infancy but may well come to dominate cars in the future. We have already started to see hybrid technology across a variety of brands, from the more affordable Prius to premium Mercedes future cars
Conventional cars only operate at around 15% efficiency. The other 85% of energy gets lost in engine inefficiencies and while idling. The potential to increase fuel efficiency with new technologies is enormous.
Options include regenerative braking (which stores some of the energy normally lost under braking for later use), the Turbosteamer (which uses exhaust gases to power a turbine), compressed air hybrid cars (which can reduce fuel use by 30%) and capturing the heat lost from the engine as reusable energy.
Lighter materials make cars more efficient and can also increase their performance. In the future, carbon nanotubes, carbon fibre, fibreglass and duraluminium all have the potential to completely replace steel and also to provide increased strength, increasing safety at the same time. For more information on carbon fibre see here
The use of plastic and foam in the car’s shell can make a car buoyant and provide extra safety for pedestrians.
Another exciting material of the future is water-repellent glass (WRG). WRG is a film of chemicals that is baked into the glass on the side, rear and front windows. WRG is patented and produced by Volvo and disperses larger water droplets into tiny mini-droplets that quickly slide from the car’s windows. This improves visibility in poor weather conditions considerably and had the potential to save many lives.
Intelligent cars are already here in many ways in the form of cruise control, parking sensors and pre-safety. In the future though we are likely to see huge advances and it is highly likely that the next 20 years will see cars that can park themselves or even do most of the driving for us.